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The Hulk goes Down Under!

a travel blog by The Hulk

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Let the adventures begin!

Sydney, Australia

Sydney, October 2006.. I actually made it. I got off my fat bum and did something rather than just talking about it!!!
I spent the first month just finding my feet and exploring the city and seeing all the famous bits like the Opera House, caught the ferry over to Manly, swam at Bondi, Coogie and a couple of the northern beaches. I got to see U2 and Kanye West play at Telstra Stadium which was really good. I was also subjected to watching an A-League game between Sydney FC and Perth Glory. Oh dear, I can only assume that the A stands for arse because it was terrible, and being a saints fan that is saying something!! Just before the Ashes started I also got to meet David Boon aka Boony, the legendary aussie cricketer.

The highlight of my first few weeks out here though has to be the Habour Bridge Walk which I did with Dave, a friend from my swimming days, and his wife Jess who were luckily passing through Sydney on his way from New Zealand to India. Both me and Dave were absolutely petrified of heights but we managed to do it without messing ourselves (Judging by the photos it was probably a close call with me though!!).

permalink written by  The Hulk on October 10, 2006 from Sydney, Australia
from the travel blog: The Hulk goes Down Under!
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Night Kayaking!!

Barrington, Australia

This is where my travels begin!!
After lazing around in Sydney for a month and a bit, it was about time I got out and saw some the country. Having not got up much before 11 o'clock previously while being in Oz the 5.30am start was a little harsh. Especially since i hadnt finished packing my bag until 12 the previous night.
As I'd not done anything like this on my own before i was a little apprehensive (bricking it!!), but a quick call from my bro on the train into Sydney city centre and I was now ready for a seroius road trip!! I got to the Oz Experience office nice and early (for once!!) and met up with all the people i was gonna spend the next month with..
We left Sydney behind and headed for Barrington Tops National Park ably driven by the legend Frat. Frat was not only really knowledgable about all things Australian he was a absolutely top bloke!!
On the way to Barrington we stopped off for a bit of a trek through the rainforest to break the journey up at bit. Whilst there, Frat helpfully informed us that it wasnt just the spiders, snakes, crocs, sharks, stingrays, jellyfish, cassowaries and tics that can kill you in Australia there are a certain type of tree that is lethal too!! GREAT!! These particular trees not only have the potential to kill you, they have a brilliant name too, the Gympie Gympie tree or otherwise known as the stinging tree. Their small hairs on their leaves penetrate the skin just by brushing against them and are almost impossible to get out!!! These hairs contain a very similar neurotoxin that is contained in Box Jellyfish stings. With that well in mind everyone stuck of the middle of the path for the rest of the walk...

We arrived at Barrington Tops National Park in the late afternoon and unloaded our previously aquired beer into the fridges provided. Then got down to some all you can eat pizza accompanied by a few beers for a bit of dutch courage before we started the night kayaking.
Once kitted out with our kayaks, paddles, helmets, helmet lights and buoyancy aids we headed via minibus to a spot upstream. After an interesting little walk carrying the kayaks we reached the river. When we arrived at the bank Dave the leader said that because of the thunder storms around us and the fact that there was no moonlight this was the darkest he's ever been out in. I can vouch for that as it was pitch black and all you can see was the red light on the back of his helmet!! Having done some canoeing back home I was looking forward to doing some grade 3 rapids in total darkness.. As mentioned earlier we were equipped with head mounted torches but you soon learn that its not that handy. Once the light is on every moth, mosquito, beetle and flying bug zooms straight for your face and if your lucky right into your mouth. Having had ample amounts of pizza and a few beers before we came out I was full so decided it was best without the light!! I managed to make my way down the rapids with only a couple of near misses and didn't capsize, the same couldnt be said for several of the group who went for an early bath.
After an just over an hour of kayaking we reached base camp, unloaded all our stuff in the store room, grabbed a few beers and headed for the hot tub to round off a great first day of my trip!!!

permalink written by  The Hulk on November 27, 2006 from Barrington, Australia
from the travel blog: The Hulk goes Down Under!
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Arrawarra Surf Camp

Coffs Harbour, Australia

After minimal sleep due to the emmense snoring capabilites of the legendary Irish Vinnie it was another early start which I was gonna have to get used to. The weather had changed from the cloudy drizzle and thunderstorms we had yesterday to beautiful warm sunshine and no clouds to be seen, time to baste up!! We were heading back to the coast for surf camp....
Just call me Kelly Slater or Laird Hamilton.. This was seriously good fun but really hard work.. As you can see from the piccies I am a natural (It may have something to do with the fact I had a surf board the size of Wales!!).
After my attempts at skateboarding when I was younger I thought it was going to be a nightmare but a little bit of effort and the fact water doesnt hurt as much as concrete and your away!!!

The weather was a bit erratic, as it was beautiful and warm when we got there, but just as we sat down for dinner one of the biggest electrical storms ive ever seen came in.. Once we'd finished eating and had about 3 power cuts we headed down to the beach to watch the storm over the sea. It was a awesome sight seeing hundreds of bolts of lightening all around..
7am start again as we were out on the water again for 8 to catch a few more waves before we headed off to the famous Byron Bay..

permalink written by  The Hulk on November 28, 2006 from Coffs Harbour, Australia
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Time to unpack the bags

Byron Bay, Australia

We arrived in Byron in the early afternoon and it was a chance to unpack my bags and relax as we were going to be here for 5nights. Byron Bay is the most easterly point of Australia and a bit of a party town. Luckily or unluckily for us we arrived right in the middle of Schoolies (Schoolies is when all the 17/18yr olds break up from school and just go to places like Byron and Surfers Paradise to just generally get pissed and act like tools, not unlike spring break in the states). I spent most of these few days just chilling out on the beach and watching the cricket during the day then going out drinking at night in the many clubs and bars that Byron has to offer. The most famous of these is the delightful Cheeky Monkeys which luckily was situated across the road from where we were staying!Me, 'Vinnie and Farmer Phil ate in here nearly every night as we got a deal from our hostel where we got $5 meals and cheap 3 pint pitchers of beer. Every night they would have prizes to give away and interesting competitions to win them in.. On our first night Phil managed to pip Vinnie and a number of other hopefuls in a sexual position game up on stage and managed to win himself some free surf lessons!! The highlight of their weeks activites though was the wednesday night wet t-shirt contest. Views were at a premium as the place was full of hundreds of schoolies. Me and Phil stayed for a while but it was far too busy and we couldnt see much of the stage so we left. We were however later informed that it was very entertaining by Vinnie who had spent the entire contest hanging from the roof with prime view of all the action!!

permalink written by  The Hulk on November 29, 2006 from Byron Bay, Australia
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One night in Brisvegas!!

Brisbane, Australia

The drive up from Byron took us north from New South Wales into Queensland. Queensland is the home of the Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast and a number of other nice sounding coasts.. Before we got to Brisbane, our next destination, we had to drop off a few of our fellow travellers in Surfer's Paradise. After Surfers much to our suprise, we got the chance to do some Zorbing!!!
Those who dont know its a "sport" invented by the kiwis where you climb into a massive inflatable ball with a bit of water in then you get pushed down a big hill.. It was a very good laugh until you have to get out at the end through the really small gap you got into at the start. This can only be done by someone tipping the ball and letting you drop out. The appearance is not unlike child birth!! Once we had all been born again it was off to Brisbane.
One night was enough for me as I felt it was just another city so I wanted a bit more country air.. Oh and my bunk bed was 6000ft high and as sturdy as England's tail end!!
From Brisbane we headed further north through Steve Irwin territory and the Glasshouse Mountains(see below) up to Noosa.

permalink written by  The Hulk on December 4, 2006 from Brisbane, Australia
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Richmans playground

Noosa Heads, Australia

After changing the itinery to only stay one night in Brisbane it allowed us to stay an extra day in Noosa. Noosa is a pretty small town but it is home to alot of wealthy people and holiday homes. You can see why, the beach is amazing and the surrounding area is beautiful. As the journey from Brissie is pretty short it gave us even more time here. We stayed at Hulse Lodge YHA which was a really nice old Queensland type house up on the hill above the town. We dropped off our bags and headed down to the beach for a chill out and swim in the sea. This was our last chance to get in without risk of being done by jellyfish as further up the coast they are everywhere..

After a relaxing day by the beach we headed back to the hostel for food, a few beers at the bar and a pool competition which i annoyingly came second in... I was robbed!!!
The next day was something me and Phil were looking forward to for a long time. We were heading to Australia Zoo, home to the legend that was Steve Irwin. The place was awesome and not like a normal zoo as it was really interactive. All the animals had massive enclosures which you could just walk through (except the crocs obviously!). The croc shows were really good and you really get to appreciate how big and powerful they are, pretty scary considering most of them were caught in the areas we were about to visit up the coast!! Other cool animals at the zoo were wombats, koalas, snakes, kangaroos, wallabies, tigers, tazzie devils and cassowaries.

permalink written by  The Hulk on December 5, 2006 from Noosa Heads, Australia
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Hervey Bay

Noosa Heads, Australia

Interesting place Hervey Bay.. Its spread out over a huge area but theres nowt to it.. Oh well Fraser Island tomorrow..

permalink written by  The Hulk on December 7, 2006 from Noosa Heads, Australia
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Fraser Island

Noosa Heads, Australia

Yet again another very early start... Destination Fraser Island for a 4x4 safari.. The largest sand island in the world, apparently!
Day 1 - It was down at the bar in the hostel by 7, ready to be put into groups and sort yourselves out. Luckily a group of chinese people didnt turn up which meant instead of 10 people per jeep it was now only 8. As I was not driving it was up to me to purchase all the alcohol and all the food supplies we would need for 3 days!! The alcohol was the easy bit, the food however wasnt. I had 20 mins to buy all the food we were going to need for 3 days for 8 people, it was just like supermarket sweep without the perma-tanned Dale Winton.
Once I'd purchased all the supplies I rejoined the group just in time for the main man from the 4x4 company to give his "Dingo Aware" speech!! Supposedly if you are attacked by them you should 'fight back aggressively'. Interesting strategy!! With that in mind we headed outside and loaded the jeep. The minute we pulled out on to the road to begin our adventures the rain started to fall.

We made our way to the ferry terminal then over to Fraser. I was expecting at least some tarmac roads on the island but I was very much mistaken. The minute we left the ferry it was dirt roads and 4x4 all the way. The weather wasnt heping much either as it was still pouring down, but thanks to Farmer Phil's expert driving we managed to make our way through the rainforest and across the island to our first stop, Lake Wabby.
The lake has a massive inland sand dune on one side and the eucalyptus forest on the other with beautiful emerald green water. As the weather has improved a little bit on our trek down to the lake a few of us went for a dip. On the walk to and from the lake we came across a couple of these spiders on either side of the path, i think they are called Golden Orb Spiders and it's about the size of my hand!!

It was back to the van and change of driver. In the hot seat this time was Katie, or should I say Colin McCrae! Oh dear..... Despite the fact we got to the camp site safely a number of us in the back had turned a little white and the seats a little brown!! After a talk about the campsite rules from the ranger it was time to set up the tents, although not before we'd cracked open a few cold beers... With suprising ease we managed to erect our tents and it was down to the cooking area to prepare din dins. Luckily for me, as I'd done the shop earlier in the day i was allowed to sit back and watch with a beer in hand.. Once we'd all eaten it was time to relax, get to know each other and enjoy ourselves. After plenty of drinks and a few humourous drinking games it was lights out at the campsite, so some of the team went to bed while the hardcore (whores of the hops!!), went down to the beach to continue the drinking.

Day 2 - Amazingly I was the first to rise the next morning and was tucking into my rice crispies before anyone else had risen. It was a race to beat the tide this morning as we had to get to the north eastern tip of the island to a place called Indian Head. The only route up there was the beach so we couldnt be late. It was Tims turn in the drivers seat this time and he did very well not to get stuck in the sand at any stage unlike numerous others!

We parked up at Indian Head steering clear of the dingo a couple of yards away, then took the long walk along the beach to Champagne Pools. These pools were supposed to be really nice little pools on the rocks created by the outgoing tide to paddle and swim in. However we were there when the tide was in so they were absolutely rubbish and kept getting hammered by huge waves. A bit dissapointed we headed back to the 4x4 for some lunch and waited for the tide to go out so we could go back down the coast. Luckily the weather had finally broken and was turning out to be a really nice day so it was time to baste up and catch a few rays.

As we had plenty of time on the way back we stopped off at the Maheno ship wreck to take a few piccies then to a really cool little place called Ely Creek. This a little fast flowing creek which flows out onto the beach. The water is absolutely crystal clear if not a little cold but we spent the next hour or so paddling up and down it like little kids at a water park!! When we'd had enough we went back to the 4x4, dried off and headed back to the camp where we continued with our eating and drinking from the previous evening!!
Day 3 - Yet again, another early morning, and we had to pack up all the tents before we headed out. We had to catch the ferry back to the main land at 4pm and we had alot to get in. First on the agenda was Lake Boomanjin. The weather again could only be described a changable, one minute warm and sunny, the next over cast and peeing it down!! When we arrived at the lake it was a bit rubbish so we made a swift return to the 4x4 and headed out to Lake Birrabean. In contrast to the previous lake, Birrabean was really nice with amazing white sandy beaches and amazing blue water, plus it was deserted which was nice! A few of us got in for a really enjoyable swim then we headed for the most famous of Fraser Islands lakes, Mackenzie. Once we arrived it began to pour down so we made some lunch in the back of the 4x4 and waited for the rubbish weather to pass. Mackenzie was just like Birrabean but a bit larger and alot more people. After a hour of messing around it was time to head for the ferry and the end of our 4x4 safari..

permalink written by  The Hulk on December 8, 2006 from Noosa Heads, Australia
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Kroombit Cattle Ranch

Rockhampton, Australia

Another early morning departure from Hervey Bay and our destination today was Kroombit Cattle Station where we had some fun and games prepared for us. After 3 days bouncing up and down like an idiot in the back of a 4x4 the bus was a pleasant change and time to chill out for a bit and take in the sites. On our route was the town of Bundaberg, home of the famous Bundaberg Rum. I was told at the time that this is the Australian version of Stella Artois or "wife beater". Having tried it since I can fully understand why!!

We arrived at the cattle station, or ranch as they call them in the states, in the early afternoon and were given the choice of a horse ride or more 4x4. As I'm not that keen on horses I chose more 4x4 adventures. Oh dear!! On the bus on the way there our driver told us that because of previous accidents etc that one of the ranch hands would drive us round. Oh no, it was a free for all, Andrew the "superviser" even asked if I wanted a go. When I said I didnt have a license he said "..so what?!".. For the next hour we drove around clinging on for our lives the back of the oldest, most beaten uo 4x4 you've ever seen. All the cushioning in the seats was gone replaced by planks of wood, the back door was held on by a bungee cord and was slamming back and fore all the time. The best of all however was at the start when he asked Phil, who was the first to drive, to always keep it in the lowest hear possible. When Phil inquired why he replied "coz the brakes aint too good!!". Once we were back I felt like kissing the gound like the Pope and vowed not to do anymore 4x4 on the trip..
It was a quick change of clothes then up the hill for some clay pidgeon shooting and lasooing goats. I gave the clay pidgeon shooting a miss coz i'd probably be toss at it and decided to put all my efforts in learning how to lasoo. The aim was to stand in the ring and chose a goat you were going to get then you had a minute to get it with your rope. Amazingly I won and managed to do it in a staggering 2 seconds!!! I think I may have found my next job!!

Lasooing and shooting aside it was down to the camp for food and more ranching activities. When we got down to camp it was really good to see Frat, our guide out of Sydney and for the first 3 days of the tour. He was taking his bus back down south from Cairns. Firstly we were taught how to crack a whip. Its not as easy as a towel and it hurts a hell of a lot more than a towel when you get it a bit wrong!! Then it was onto the mechanical bull for rodeo time.. To say i was shite would be an understatement but my dismount was unlike anything they'd ever seen. I manged to do a perfect sumersault and land on the crashmats on my back, not hurting anything accept my pride!! Frat found it particularly amusing as he'd given me some tips on how to stay on. He used to work on a cattle ranch further inland before he started driving for Oz Experience..I think i managed 3 bucks. Despite not really wanting to do it and going last Alex won staying on for about 12 i think. Up stepped Frat and beat everyone, managing about 20/25 bucks before he jumped off and he did it no handed!! Very impressive...
After the bull it was more drinking and drinking games which decended into things which shall not be repeated, as they say, what goes on tour stays on tour!!!

permalink written by  The Hulk on December 11, 2006 from Rockhampton, Australia
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Airlie Beach, Austria

After a monstrous 11 hour journey we finally arrived in Airlie Beach (also known as Airlie no Beach), gateway to the Whitsundays..
Had a few nights in Airlie before we headed out on the boat, pretty nice place with very good nightlife so more drinking was to be had!! We are now in stinger jellyfish areas so no matter how nice the sea looks, unless your wearing a lovely stinger/swinger/gimp suit you may die!!! There is a great man made lagoon just off the beach which you can swim in though.

After a late night watching jelly wrestling at Magnums with Phil and Kim(very funny Danish farmer off our bus), we headed down to get on our boat. Luckily the boat we had chosen to go on was apparently one of the best in Airlie and in its former life as a racing yacht had won the Fastnet and Sydney to Hobart races twice along with a load of other important things.. Obviously the boat was very good, but the crew had were even better!!
Andy the captain, Chris and Andrew. Some of the jokes Captain Andy came out with are without doubt the sickest jokes I have ever heard!!
As there was only 3 proper crew onboard it was up to the rest of us to pitch in and raise the sails etc. I now have the upmost respect for anyone who does proper sailing as getting the sails up was the hardest thing ive done since I finished swimming. I nearly threw up once I'd finished and by looking at the others around me, I wasnt the only one!!!
The first day sailing we headed right out to the far side of the Whitsundays to Border Island. Once there, it was time to don our lovely stinger suits for a bit of snokelling in the amazing clear waters with beautiful coral and millions of fish.. However we did find out something a little bit scary from some friends who we met on the way to the boat who'd just come off their cruise on a different yacht. They told us that they had heard something had happened on Condor and someone had to be airlifted off and to hospital. With this in mind we quizzed Captain Andy before we went in the water. He told us that some German fella had gone out in full stinger suit and came back to the boat perfectly ok, told the crew he thought he'd been stung on the neck. They treated it with vinegar(not urine!!) as your supposed to but this bloke just deteriorated so they had to get him airlifted off. He spent the next 3 days in intensive care where his heart rate didnt drop below 170-180bpm! He had been stung by the delightful Irukandji jellyfish (Carukia barnesi). Whats even better about these things is they are only 12mm in diameter and 25mm long.. Nasty little buggers!!!

With that well in mind we jumped in and went for a paddle. When we'd had enough of paddling around it was back to the boat for some food and crack open a few tinnies of VB and XXXX as this was where we were going to stop for the night..

Day 2. After an early morning snorkle we headed to one of the top 10 beaches in the world, Whitehaven Beach. As you can see from the pictures it is absolutely amazing. After a little walk up to the viewpoint in the middle of the island to get some piccies we went down to the beach itself to catch some sun. Stupidly we decided to have a game of footy(not the best idea in a country with very little ozone layer and in the middle of the day). As we had a multinational boat it was decided to have England vs the rest of the world (Wales(me), Chile, Germany, Greece and Norway).
After scoring a first half hat-trick for the English and feeling the on set of sun stroke Phil decided to come off at half time. The rest of us stupidly carried on to finish of the game with England for once coming out on top 6-4!! (I blame the bloody Norweigan Jon Arne Riise lookalikes lack of passing!!)

After a bit of sunbathing and messing around it was time to head back to the boat and off to Pearl Bay where we spent our second night. When we arrived at Pearl Bay a few of us went for a bit of a swim and cool down round the boat, then back on board for bbq and beers!! Once we'd had our food it was time to relax and sit down to watch the sun set over the mainland which was pretty amazing, then once it got dark see the most starry night ive ever seen. There actually appeared to be more stars than sky!!

Day 3. Homeward bound.. The final early morning snorkle and a swim with the legendary Elvis (a massive Napolean Fish, not the dead bloke!) plus millions of other amazing fish and a few snotties (not mine, but a stinging type of jellyfish which resemble its name). With much sadness it was back to the boat and time to head back to Airlie Beach. Once the sails were up and we had been sailing for a while Captain Andy advised us that we were not allowed to take any alcohol back into port and we would have to finish off all that was left over.. After I had got rid of 6 or 7 cans of XXXX and VB plus large quantities of Goon (rancid cheap wine in a bag to those who don't know) we managed it just in time. It was still only 11am!! It was time to bid farewell to our fellow passengers and go our seperate ways. We'll at least till 7pm when we all met up again with the crew in the bar at our hostel for loads of free drinks and more fun and games!!!

permalink written by  The Hulk on December 12, 2006 from Airlie Beach, Austria
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