Mission Beach

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Australia Zoo - the legend lives on

The trip north from Byron Bay to Noosa took us past the Glasshouse Mountains, home to the now world-famous Australia Zoo, and home to the legendary Crocodile Hunter, a.k.a. Steve Irwin. We had already planned to stop and visit the zoo before leaving the UK, with the vain hope of seeing the mentalist in action first-hand. Unfortunately a cruel twist of nature meant that this was not meant to be, but we were undeterred nonetheless.

The main stars of the show are the crocodiles, who play along with the show in spectacular fashion. We now know that a crocodile hunts by sound, rather than by sight, but is still scarily accurate, will strike if you are within 2m, will take down a cow, and probably most importantly for you and I cannot run very fast, contrary to popular myth.

Indian elephant

Other highlights of the zoo were the bird show, the elephants, the numerous venomous snakes, and lastly, but definitely not least, the tigers. Even though the tigers are in captivity they appear to be very well looked after, and much of the time is spent nurturing their natural instincts, rather than depicting them as commonal house pets.

We also had the pleasure of watching Bindi Irwin filming for her show on the Discovery Channel, under the watchful eye of her mum, Tracey, and a number of rather large bodyguards. Not bad for an eight year old!

After a good day animal watching, we got back into the Camper Sutra and made the short trip up to Noosa. The time spent here was very much chill out time to help us recover from the strains of Byron Bay (!?!).

Feeding time - the crocodiles are star attractions
The campsite was fantastic, mainly due to its location on the riverbank. Therefore it was only right that we spent our afternoons supping many a good glass (make that bottles...plural) of wine from our select Barossa Valley collection, whilst enjoying the relentless sunshine. Oh, the trauma!

With our livers well and truly pickled, the camp chairs were packed away once again and the Camper Sutra trundled on up to Hervey Bay, the jump-off point for our next excursion, the 4x4 Fraser Island Self-Drive Safari.

Fraser Island is the largest sand dune in the world, and is also a World Heritage site. With lots of sand comes some extreme driving conditions, hence the need for a 4x4. Pam and I took the option offered by many a hostel to jump in a very pink 9-person Toyota Landcruiser along with 7 other strangers, taking our own gear and food supplies, and camping on the island for 3 days.

The tiger being put through its paces
The driving duties fell to my goodself primarily. I found this to be a complete chore, having to negotiate heavily sanded tracks and sand dunes, and to bomb along a 80 km beach at 70 kph - awesome fun.

In our truck we had a good cross-section of nationalities. They were: Matt & Nichola, from Bristol, England; Sun, Luna, J & K, from South Korea; and Carmen, from Germany. We were also travelling in convoy with another very pink jeep, which contained Mike & Rod, from Canada, Maxine from Germany (friend of Carmen - they drew the short straw), Supriya from Iceland, another couple from South Korea, two American girls and a Canadian girl (as you can tell they made a huge impression - sorry ladies). All-in-all a veritable mixed bag, but we are pleased to report that all international relations are still intact, and we now know how to cook a fantastic Korean dish.

James doesn´t heed the warnings...

Fraser Island was all about the sand, driving, sand, the scenery (which is stunning, especially the lakes, Lake MacKenzie in particular), sand, making new friends, sand, drinking too much cheap wine with sand, eating sand, late nights and very early mornings (mainly due to the heat of the sun and the not-so-friendly tide timetable). Did we mention the sand?

On a negative note, imagine walking through a desert for days on end, without any food or water, only to come upon an oasis that serves very cold beer. However, you cannot have this beer because you have left your wallet in the hotel. This is the ocean around Fraser Island ... the sun is baking down and the sea is so blue and inviting. But, if you take the plunge, if the tiger sharks or box jellyfish do not get you, the lethal rip tides will.

"Stinky" and the crew - Fraser Island awaits
Really frustrating, but also synonomous with much of Australia. Fortunately, Lake MacKenzie is a tropical freshwater oasis, with white sands, ridiculously clear, blue water and no hidden dangers except yourself (or two Canadians by the name of Rod and Mike teaching you to swim if you happen to be of Korean origin).

The second night proved to very eventful with Supriya ignoring the advice of, well, everyone, and choosing to sleep alone under the stars. Why should you not sleep under the stars alone? Because, as Supriya found out to her cost, the not-so-friendly dingoes like to have a good sniff around campsites at night in search of food. Food, which is now known to consist of babies! Supriya knew this but like all head-strong teeenagers knew better (only days to go until my 30th), only to wake up with one Dingo licking her face and another nibbling away at her feet.

James walks the Eqyptian
Brilliant! Needless to say, she quickly relocated to a tent as suggested by about 17 other people and a few park rangers.

Fraser Island was well worth the trip, and was definately topped off by the spontaneous after-party back at Hervey Bay.  The Koreans decided they would like to cook a traditional Korean meal for us as we had introduced them to the Aussie Barbie and Pasta Bolagnaise.  The food was fab and the Koreans were getting merrily wasted.  With every beer their English improved which made for more beer!  Once the hostel bar closed we, the party hardcore (us, the koreans, Rod, Mike & Maxine) dragged our leftover booze from Fraser to the beach to carry on the party.  We were then joined by three Aussies, two of which decided it was funny to start pulling moonies, and other things which cannot be described before the 9 o´clock watershed , and a couple of the Korean lads joined in (J & K)!  Crazy boys!!  Anyway all good drunken fun with us staggering back to the Camper Sutra at about 4am!

Our next exciting adventure was sailing around the Whitsundays.

The Happy Couple - Lake MacKenzie, Fraser Island
  To break up the journey we stopped at Town of 1770.  This small backwater is famous for the fact that Captain James Cook landed here in, yes you have guessed it, 1770.  We took the obligatory photo and moved on quickly (very dull).  We arrived at Airlie Beach which was a happening little hub, not too disimilar to a spanish holiday resort - lovely! We bumped into Rod, Mike, Maxine and Carmen the night before we set sail and were strong and kept the wine to a minimum as hangovers on boats are not good!  So the next day we set sail.  The sun was shining, the ocean was a beautiful blue and the wind was up - hurray!

We were sailing on a boat called the Matador, which was a 80ft Maxi racing yacht and two times winner of the Sydney to Hobart race.

Town of 1770 - the plaque says it all
Basically the real deal. On the first day we visited Hamilton Island, where James and three other lads hired a golf buggie to explore the island.  Whereas myself and Heather chose to walk.  We then set sail again to Whitehaven Beach which is the most famous beach of the Whitsundays.  James cruised us into anchor (v. impressive) and then we were all dinghied ashore.  The beach was pure white sand becuase it is 98% silicone.  The only downside was if you wanted to swim you had to wear your stingers suits, which kind of takes the edge off the tropical appeal.  We moored up at this beach for the night for an evening of good food and good company.

Getting up at 7 am the next day we sailed for a few hours before arriving at our dive spot.  The site was good but the water was freezing so a 40 minute dive was more than enough, but as the dive was free we could not complain too much.

The Matador 2
While we were here we also bumped into Mike, Rob, Maxine and Carmen again who were on the party boat, and suffering somewhat!  After the diving we made our way around to Blue Pearl Bay to watch the sunset and spend our second night aboard the boat.  On board it was the birthday of one of the girls, so it turned into a bit of a party, with the honour of making a fool of themselves falling ominously to James, who, having drunk significantly more than the birthday girl, gave a masterclass in how to striptease (I stopped him before the pants came off).

Very sore heads were cleared the next day with a dive in the ocean, off the boat, before breakfast, followed by some snorkling.  We then, sadly, had to head back to shore.  The whole time we were on board though we got to learn some sailing things.

James helms this 80ft racing monster
  We ground the coffee grinders to winch up the main sail and some of the stronger boys heeve-hoed up the jib by pulling on ropes (all very technical - not!).  We also learnt how to carry as cup of coffee without spilling it whilst the boat was moving (eventually).

The night we arrived back there was yet again an after-party, where we and the boat crew made the most of being ashore for the first time in three whole days, i.e. we drank, danced and drank some more!  The Irish people on board, who had steadily drank continuously for the whole time aboard, dragged us to the Irish bar.  Lots of dancing and staggering to the beach afterwards led to another 4am finish, and another good night!

The next day we headed up to Mission Beach, somewhat later than originally planned, and who knows what crazy, no scary, no fun things we might get up to there!??!.

Pam on Whitehaven Beach, Whitsundays

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Australia Zoo - the legend lives on
Australia Zoo - the legend lives on
Indian elephant
Indian elephant
Feeding time - the crocodiles are …
Feeding time - the crocodiles are…
The tiger being put through its pa…
The tiger being put through its p…
James doesn´t heed the warnings...
James doesn´t heed the warnings...
Stinky and the crew - Fraser Isl…
"Stinky" and the crew - Fraser Is…
James walks the Eqyptian
James walks the Eqyptian
The Happy Couple - Lake MacKenzie,…
The Happy Couple - Lake MacKenzie…
Town of 1770 - the plaque says it …
Town of 1770 - the plaque says it…
The Matador 2
The Matador 2
James helms this 80ft racing monst…
James helms this 80ft racing mons…
Pam on Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunda…
Pam on Whitehaven Beach, Whitsund…
Travelling in style - the boys bur…
Travelling in style - the boys bu…
Or perhaps not
Or perhaps not
White-breasted sea eagle
White-breasted sea eagle
The Happy Couple - Helming Matador…
The Happy Couple - Helming Matado…
The After-Party
The After-Party
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Mission Beach
photo by: rolimeier