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Australia: Hot Days and Cool Reefs

a travel blog by TwoSouls

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Welcome To Oz

Sydney, Australia

Good Day from Down Under!

We are now in the land of OZ, as tthe locals call it. To the rest of the world, it's Australia (and not as barren or lacking mountains like you might think). Many of you folks out there are probably wondering if we have reached the middle-of-nowhere yet... well, we still haven't managed to find it (Middle Earth in NZ was pretty close). Though... our track seems somewhat endless, and occasionally we've felt we needed to pick up the pace. Fortunately right now we have found a place to settle in for a few days and enjoy the weather and our surroundings. That place is Noosa and Sunshine Beach, in Queensland on the East Coast of Australia.

We left New Zealand early on the 12th from Christchurch and arrived in Sydney, still well before noon. After a phone call and a short wait, we were picked up by a Russell - who we had met a couple of weeks prior in Queenstown, NZ. Russell was very welcoming and offered up his place in Lane Cove for us as a Sydney base, as-well-as give us a grand tour. We went out for Thai food in the Glebe District on Wednesday - Excellent! Thursday, Jen and I caught a bus into town and split for half-a-day to see sights of our own interests.

Jen headed to the Opera House and the Botanical Gardens while I crossed the bridge to check out the Maritime Museum and a sweet replica of the Endeaver (Capt. James Cook's boat). We met in the afternoon at the Queen Elizabeth Building, purchased 'hop-on hop-off' Greyhound tickets North as far as Airlie Beach, and then bussed back to Russel's.
Friday was great despite the lingering percipitation. Russell took the day off and drove us up into the Blue Mountains outside Sydney. There were sheer cliffs, gorgeous waterfalls, and views of a region I vaguely remember seeing in National Geographic.
Saturday we said goodbye to Russell and caught an overnight Greyhound to Byron Bay.We had an hour-or-so in Byron Bay before being whisked away by Jim's Alternative Tours and taken to Nimbin some 2 hours away. The tour was fantastic with loud music, a narration by our comical driver, and a 40 minute stop-off at a pub for refreshments.

The "Hippie" town of Nimbin is like something right out of the late '60's.....a town that sprouted up from commune type living. All sorts of colorful art and homegrown products filled the shops and cafe's. It was a busy place with an open market, live music, and lots of curious visitors walking around. That night we stayed close to Nimbin at the YHA Rox hostel in order to get the "proper" amount of time needed for the local experience.
The next day we continued the tour and stopped off at an 30 acre place owned by a very "hippie" expat from New York who had dodged the draft for Vietnam and never returned home. It was loads of fun talking politics with this guy.....what a riot!
Back in Byron Bay we checked in at Art's Factory Lodge and managed to find a tentsite in this filled-to-the-brim hostel. All of the cabins, teepees, yurts, and bunkhouses were full- plus the camping area had probably 50-60 tents in it! Totally like a festi! Entertainment for the night was a mixture of wild turkeys and rats scratching around the camping area, and a beautiful 6 foot white and yellow python in the kitchen. I'm surprised Jen was able to sleep that night! ...a short Greyhound trip to Brisbane the next morning...where we were met by Anne- a contact and friend from couchsurfing.com. We had an enjoyable stay with Anne one night and she was kind enough to give us a lift to the bus the next day. Thanks Anne!

Our next stop was Noosa, where we are now. Couchsurfing again...with a wonderful couple Andrew and Sabina. These two are very active and close to us in age so we've hit-it-off really well. They have a strikingly modern house that they recently remodeled. Both of them have travelled alot and also spent time in California...Lots to talk about!
This morning, Jen and I went for a long walk from their place in Sunshine Beach around the coast (3 hrs) and into Noosa Town. The sky was finally clear of clouds and boy was it hot and humid! Around the point, the good-sized waves were crowded with surfers. In a Eucalyptus tree we saw a sleeping Koala. And once we reached town, the beach was packed with people. I guess that's what happens when it's been rainy for 3 months.
Never-the-less...We found space, shared a 7-11 slurpee, and went for a much needed swim in the Tasman Sea.
We have now shortened our Australia leg substancially and will be flying to Bali on March 5. I have a feeling our internet access might be limited in Indo, but we will do our best to keep you all appraised to the haps.
Thanks so much for keeping us in your thoughts and prayers! So many of you are here with us in spirit. Please give us some feedback via emails to this blogsite or our hullacoasters@hotmail if you can.....we'd like to know who is following us!
Thank you and much love!!!

permalink written by  TwoSouls on February 21, 2008 from Sydney, Australia
from the travel blog: Australia: Hot Days and Cool Reefs
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Funny how we find ourselves lingering in places that feel like home...

Airlie Beach, Austria

Let's just get my first thought our of the way... make us all feel better.
I'm not sure where Tim left off, but I think it was somewhere in the midst of our stay in Noosa. We ended up staying there almost a week. It had a great vibe, the weather was nice, our Couchsurfing (CS) hosts were FANTASTIC and it reminded us of Santa Cruz a bit - a funky harbour town that faces North when it should really face East. We connected with Ross (our fourth CS host) on Saturday and immediately jumped on a bus to the famous Eumundi market. It was HUGE... and almost 100 degrees out, so we ended up literally shopping til we dropped. Luckily we dropped ourselves into a cool little pub/bistro and enjoyed sharing a couple of jugs while "Uncle Bob's Jug Band" played a few tunes. It was classic and silly and air-conditioned, so we were all smiles. While we were able to escape Eumundi without breaking the bank, I did manage to get an early birthday gift from Tim - a beautiful amber ring, something I'd been looking for for a while, so it was a very nice surprise.

After a well-deserved swim back in Noosa, we enjoyed a BBQ with Ross and two other couchsurfers he was hosting at the time. We swizzled back a bew beers, exchanged stories about the ups and downs of travel and life in general and had quite a few laughs. Ross is a really wonderful person and we had a great time with him over the next few days. We were sad to leave, but we decided to jump on the Greyhound and head to Hervey Bay for an overnight stay. Hervey Bay is the jumping off point for the very popular Frasier Island tours, but we took the advice of some locals and decided to skip it. We basically lounged by the pool most of the day and took the opportunity to find some reprieve.

It was an all-night bus ride to Airlie Beach - sounds like a great way to save $$ on a night's accommodation, right? Well, yes, nice to save a few bucks, but those buses are not too comfy for tall folks like ourselves. The Greyhound truly is a great way to see Australia, but it makes for a grouchy Jen Jen from time to time. We wandered around Airlie Beach and I met a friend this morning - this little bugger was getting cheeky with me in the shower! We will wander again today and then set sail for a three 3 night trip to the outer Great Barrier Reef... we are both VERY excited and the weather looks to be in our favor (although it could change drastically by the time I finish this blog). So we will be off-line until next week... but we promise to return with some more great photos - Tim bought an underwater camera, so it should be a very memorable experience.

We love you very much...

permalink written by  TwoSouls on February 29, 2008 from Airlie Beach, Austria
from the travel blog: Australia: Hot Days and Cool Reefs
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The Great Barrier Reef and Beyond: Goodbye to Oz

Brisbane, Australia

Wow, it's HOT here! Here is Airlie Beach, Australia- and even though it spits rain every now-and-again, it's not enough to cool things off.

We have successfully recovered from the long bus ride and are aboard a 105' sailing mega-yacht (Annaconda III) cruising out toward the Whitsunday Islands and beyond (Great Barrier Reef).

The main purpose of this venture is scuba diving on the reef and relaxing aboard this monster-of-a sailboat. Sounds good, huh? Well almost...the seas got rough (3+ meter swells), all the crew smoke ciggys like chimneys, belowdecks is in a state of disrepair, and the food is less than desirable. People were seasick and wrenching over the rails. The weather was so uncooperative that we were only allowed one dive on the Great Barrier Reef (and it was a night dive only for certified divers- lucky I'm certified!). Five of us splashed into the water that night with two dive instructors leading the way. One guy immediately freaked out from the combination of darkness and heavy swell and had to be hauled back to the boat. That left a perfect two-and-two as we descended to about 18 meters amid huge towers of coral teaming with sealife. It was fabulous and I was awestruck as our underwater lites spotlighted huge turtles, moray eels, schools of fish, and things I've only seen on Jacque Cousteau. At one point a large turtle swam straight toward us as if to say hello and welcome to my reef. AWESOME!!! I still have to develop my underwater pictures, but am sure I got some sood ones.

Aside from that dive and some snorkeling in the shelter of the Whitsundays, the weather (and the food/crew) was a real drag for a majority of the passengers. Jen and I actually enjoyed the rough seas and stayed above decks to watch the bow plow through the swell. The occasional large wave would hit the side and spray would wash all the way over the stern, soaking everyone brave enough to be topside.

Back in Airlie Beach on the 3rd, Jen's Birthday! We went to check in to the YHA and found that their computers had gone down and our reservation was lost. The friendly staff made good by upgrading us to a suite with all the extras. Funny how things work out! I promptly ran across the street to a bakery and purchased a slice of carrot cake, a slice of chocolate cake, and a slice of a vanilla custard cake (figuring I couldn't go wrong with all the choices). No candles but a birthday kiss and hug along with the traditional song did the trick. The only thing I couldn't help with was the feeling of being homesick. E for effort!

The following day we flew to Brisbane, catching a train into town from the airport to meet Beni- our couchsurfing host for the night. Beni was a great host and had been to the States when he was young. He brought out a journal his parents made him write while travelling. Besides Yosemite, San Fran, Disneyland, and many of the normal tourist hotspots- he'd even been to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. It's indeed a small world, Beni.

On March 5 we attempted to board a flight bound for Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia and were refused due to lack of onward flight booking. We tried to get by with showing proof of funds and itenerary but to no avail.....and ended up running over to the Quantas desk and paying full price for a refundable ticket out of Indonesia. OUCH! Refundable minus $200+ for booking fees, etc. Oh, well...Bali, here we come!

Oh yeah!...Did I say we miss you guys!
Love, Tim

permalink written by  TwoSouls on March 5, 2008 from Brisbane, Australia
from the travel blog: Australia: Hot Days and Cool Reefs
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We are going to explore the unknown and there's no turning back now. Why explore? Here are a few reasons why we start on this journey...

- To breathe deeply, appreciate the moment and SLOW DOWN
- To let go of our fears
- To rebel… prove that we can live outside the system
- To challenge...

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