Tuesday, 3 February 2015

AUSTRALIA. EAST COAST


Not my first but almost (contacts with a surfboard).
On 26th of Feb, after all the hassle getting my visa, I finally made it to Australia. Landed in Brisbane, quite late at night. It took less than 30 seconds to pass the immigration (I was expecting to go through all the questioning again) and my luggage didn’t get checked (probably because I said NO to everything…although I had spices in my bag and my hiking shoes were quite muddy). Andrew (our host from CouchSurfing) and my friend Pesho came to pick me up at the airport and we went straight to the house and bed. Although we stayed awake for a while, as we had to catch up for the 3 weeks Pesho spent in Oz and I was in NZ. I missed my flight to Cairns because of my Australian visa so Pesho was 3 weeks ahead of me, he did the stretch between Cairns and Brisbane which I missed. That means I didn’t get to scuba dive at the Great Barrier Reef :(.
Stayed 2 days in Brisbane, spent some time wandering through the streets and the river – the ferry functions just like the buses in other cities and its pretty nice. Had a dinner and drinks with Pe&Andrew and their Chilean friend Marcelo, who was just learning how to swim (at the age of 35) with the idea of doing a triathlon in 2 months (bet 400 $ on wining against his friends). Then we headed north.
 
Brisbane
Pesho rying to get a ride
Fraser island (300 km north of Brisbane) – the largest sand island in the world.
The plan was to hitchhike to Hervey Bay and we did it but I wouldn’t say it went smooth. Hitchhiking is not that popular in Australia anymore, after a few murders on the road (they even made a film about it), drivers don’t dare pick up hitchhikers and also not that many travelers try their luck that way. We made it though, pretty late but we made it. We made a bet on what colour the cars that would pick us up would be and I won: white. 4 white ones against 2 silver ones which was Pesho´s guess. It was getting dark and we were already looking for a place to camp when a white car stopped and the driver was nice enough to take us to Harvey bay, even though he wasn’t going that far. Slept in a nice hostel and in the morning got up early to take the ferry to Fraser island. Hitch hiked to the ferry (the taxi costs 60$ for 14km! if you don’t pay for a tour), a nice old English guy picked us up and took us all the way to the ferry, even though he wasn’t going there. Again. Among all the people on the ferry, we were the only ones planning to walk across the island, everyone else was on a tour or had rented a 4WD. The plan was to do part of the island´s Great walk (90km). Later on we realized it was way too ambitious to do it in April.  But still amazing :)! 
The 4WD getting off the ferry
From Kingfisher Bay we walked to Lake Mackenzi, relaxed at the beach, camped there by ourselves, there were only 2 French girls sleeping in their van. Felt a bit creepy with all the noises and dingos around.
Centrals station, Lake Birrabeen where we stopped for some beach time. Batteries recharged, we quickly walked around the edge of Lake Birrabeen and past the dry reedy swamp of Barga Lagoon. At its southern end the swamp merged into the waters of Lake Benaroon - at last, our stop for the night! Benaroon, trees gradually became taller and vegetation denser and soon we found ourselves once again in the lush rainforest but couldn’t find the way out and it was getting dark and scary. Covered in scratches and mud we went back to the camp site at lake Benaroon and spent the night there (on our own again). I promised myself that I would complain how irresponsible they are, not marking the route – it was impossible to find the path. Next day we went back to the main road I continued to lake Boomanjin. Luckily an English couple we found there, gave us a ride to Dili village.
 
A dingo checking the girls bag
 
 
The trail to the camp site (Lake Benaroon)
Once in Dili village (13 km), we decided to leave even though we had another day left on the island (you buy permits before u get to the island) and then to Manta Ray ferry. A truck driver took us to Rainbow beach (we didn’t even pay for the ferry) and when he was about to drop us off at the backpackers hostel, he said “You know what, we have a spare room in our house, why don’t you just come and stay with us” ..we didn’t think much. Pesho and Chuck (the other guy living in the house) spent hours talking about fishing so I had to entertain myself cooking. Nice guys and funny stories to hear (apart from the fishing ones).
Chuck and Pesho, deep in the fishing stories in Rainbow beach
Rocco and Rachel
Bus back to Brisbane, got the rest of the luggage from Pe&Andrew´s house and then train to Gold coast. Rachel and Tony and baby Rocco came to pick us up. Rachel was my ex boyfriend´s girlfriend before me and even after we broke up, we stayed in touch and when I told her I was in Australia, she invited me to stay with them. And it was so nice to be in a real house with old friends. I really enjoyed the dinners over some wine and the lovely time on the beach. While Pesho and Tony were trying to build the deck, we had some time to catch up on our lives - my travels and her new life in Australia (and the baby Rocco). Again we stayed longer than planned but it was lovely. 

Byron Bay
Keith getting the car ready
Stacey who we were travelling with in the South island in New Zealand, recommended Keith as a host in Byron Bay. He came and picked us up from the bus stop. He had bunch of other people staying with him plus these Swedish girls who were in town. I had my first proper surf lesson, Keith was nice to spend some time with me teaching me and finally I stood up! First night we went to some bars in town and the second night we had a barbecue at the hostel where the Swedish girls were staying…

The house
Evans Head – I arranged volunteering for a few days at a surf camp in Evans Head, run by John: Volunteering in a surf camp in Australia. The town itself was nothing impressive, another small village with big waves and lots of fish but it felt like a little paradise for us. I was the first person to use the newly installed WIFI in the public library. There were so many activities to do – fishing, surfing, kayaking, beaching, almost not doing any work, barbecues and drinks every night next to the river. Pesho was literally fishing from the back yard all day long cos his knee was still sore after the motorcycle accident (and because he is crazy about fishing). But I took this opportunity to try and learn how to surf properly this time. There was another volunteer – Polina from Holland (ex soldier, yeah! She was even in Afghanistan for a year) and we went to the beach every day with the surf boards trying our luck. At the beginning John showed me on the sand and in the water a few tricks and after that I was able to stand up on my own. Not every time of course but it still made me extremely happy.
Peter the Lawn Mower guy and Elena The Surfer!
 
Both of us were happy with our hobbies

From the house at low tide
Blue mountains
From Evans Head we went hitchhiking to Sydney, 900 km in just one day, made it in 11 hours, meeting all kind of people. Luckily the last guy was going straight to Sydney (500km) and he was also our age so was fun talking to him. Made it just in time to get the last train to Colin´s house. I met Colin 5 or 6 years ago at New Years Eve party my Macedonian friend Desi threw in her house in Skopje. There were people from all over the world at the party but no one had made it to Australia yet so Colin was pretty happy to meet me (or at least he said that :). He and his parents were really hospitable and wanted us to see everything in their city. He took us to the Blue Mountains (not blue at all) where he used to go climbing.
 
The three sisters
 

Colin giving a climbing lesson to Pesho
 
No hands
Colin also gave us a small tour around Sydney and its beaches of course. The weather was just perfect. I personally prefer Melbourne but Sydney has all the beaches, you cannot ignore that!
  
 

In the oldest bar in Sydney according to Colin
Bondi beach
Tamarama beach

The beaches in Sydney was our last stop. 4 days in the city and surrounding, it was time to move on. We had a flight to Perth where Foo was already waiting for us. The plan: Perth to Melbourne by car. No car yet and, no firm plan, decisions will be made in the time of speaking. But for sure it will be fun! Road trip from Perth to Melbourne

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