East Coast of Australia, Kakadu National Park and Singapore

Singapore Travel Blog

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Well, it's been a long time since we emailed. For the quick version, we are both safe and well and have made our way up the East Coast of Australia from Sydney to Cairns, spent a few nights camping in Kakadu (near Darwin) and are now in Singapore. For the longer version, read on...

Suze made a point of telling Duncan that he knows how to treat a lady after they entered the hotel that he'd booked in Sydney. We stayed in Potts Point, which is a nice suburb, but little did we know that it was next to Kings Cross, the red light district. And the hotel was closer to Kings Cross than Potts Point. And it had a special "day rate" for its rooms. The first room was, frankly, horrible. It had an interesting information leaflet, which told you how to use the TV (the remote was secured to the wall), and also a nice section entitled "What to do if you get mugged".  Suze stumbled across a very sweaty looking man wearing last night's clothes creeping out of the neighbouring room early in the morning (jet lag from the NZ flight). The room we moved to was much nicer, thank God.

Anyway, we had a fantastic week in Sydney. It's a beautiful city and we especially enjoyed our runs around the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. From what we've said, you're probably all expecting us to be ultra slim from all this exercise but we've been eating lots of pies (Aussie delicacy) to counter-act the calorie loss! Probably the highlight for us was donning the Star Trek suits to climb the Harbour Bridge. The views from the summit were spectacular. We also had a fabulous meal at the Opera House restaurant including a free bottle of wine and enjoyed a cultured night out at the opera (Handel's Alcina - no fat ladies in sight). We caught up with one of our friends from the UK who has emigrated to Sydney and who is living in the same wharf as Nicole Kidman. She took us to an evening concert at the zoo of "one-hit wonders," a number of which we hadn't heard before. Can you believe it, no Chesney Hawkes??!! It was the same night as the "Earth hour" which had been promoted for over a month and was supposed to involve all of the tower blocks in Sydney switching their lights off. It was a complete damp squib (only the lights in the Opera House and on the Harbour Bridge were turned off), but at least it gave Duncan an excuse to hug a tree as a cheesy speech was read out and the band played "What a wonderful world.." Guess you had to be there! The beaches in Sydney were also great and we enjoyed the gorgeous coastal walk from Coogee to Bondi.

So after Sydney, we flew to the Gold Coast, where we spent a relaxing afternoon at Byron Bay. The next day, we regressed about 20 years and went to Wet 'n Wild, a water park. Some of the slides are pure evil, in particular the mile-long vertical drop (slight exaggeration, but it felt like it) that Duncan managed to pluck up the courage to go down. His first thought on reaching the bottom wasn't "that was fast", but "ow, my back," as he had a friction burn all over his back necessitating medical treatment. That'll teach us for trying to be kids again! Suze was determined to win the "Wave Racer", where you race 7 other people and fling yourself head first on a mat down a water slide, and she succeeded when Duncan was disqualified for jumping the gun.

We had a couple of days in Brisbane where we caught up with a friend from Vietnam and Duncan's uni friend who was also on holiday, before chilling out in Noosa and heading to Fraser Island. Fraser is one of our highlights of the East Coast. We swam and drank at the same time in freshwater lakes, flanked by rainforest and silica sand beaches (silica sand doesn't get hot). This was also the venue for a rerun of the 1966 World Cup final between England v Germany. We travelled around Fraser in a group of 20, quite a few of whom were German. At Lake Birrabeen, we decided to have a game of footie, but there were more English people than German so Suze volunteered to play for the Germans. Not sure we should be broadcasting this, but Suze scored the winning goal!!

After Fraser, we boarded the "Solway Lass," a tall ship from 1902 to sail the Whitsundays for 3 nights. We snorkelled in beautiful, turquoise waters amongst a variety of colourful fish and turtles and spent a morning at the breathtaking Whitehaven beach. Every morning, we ate breakfast on deck as the sun rose over the sea. There was a pirate swing - a rope which hangs off the poop deck - but our attempts at double somersaults with pike and half twists didn't really come off. We spent the following few days after returning to shore swaying from side to side as we struggled to get our land legs back.

Next stop was Magnetic Island. Until relatively recently, this was a remote community of about 1,000 people, and it shows - they are all slightly wary of outsiders. It was a nice place to chill out for a couple of days. We hired a moke (a 1970s topless Mini with drum brakes) to drive around the island. At first we were worried that we had a 60km limit, but the only road we could drive along was only 12km long, so we needn't have worried. No wonder that they didn't let you hire them for less than a day! Magnetic Island is also home to a number of nasty jellyfish, so you can't swim in the sea apart from in a tiny stinger enclosure at one of the beaches.

Our final stop on the Coast was Cairns, from where we spent a day snorkelling/diving on the Great Barrier Reef which was amazing. Whilst diving, Duncan came across "Wallie the Giant Wrasse" - a huge, blue fish about 4 ft by 2 ft. Our night in Cape Tribulation, where the rainforest meets the reef, was fun. We went on a night walk and spotted various creepy crawlies (avoided the snakes). Duncan was disappointed not to see a cassowary, which is a giant emu-like bird with a sharp claw which can disembowel you if you annoy it. We've come across so many things in Oz which can kill you from animals to plants, most of which are on show in the Venom Zoo which we visited on our last day in Cairns.

Our last stop in Oz was Darwin. We didn't spend much time in Darwin itself, which is probably a good thing, as it is full of nutters, and there isn't much to do. However, it is close to Litchfield and Kakadu national parks, so we went on a 4 day camping trip. We hadn't envisaged swimming with crocodiles, but we did just that in a number of waterholes around the parks - fortunately they were only freshwater crocs, which grow to a measly 3m and don't bother attacking humans unless you step on them. There were warning signs that estuarine crocs (up to 6m and which will attack humans for a bit of a laugh) visited some of the waterholes, but our guide assured us that there weren't any there at the time. She didn't seem that keen to go in first, though... Still, we are alive and have all of our limbs. We camped a night with some aboriginal people, who gave us an interesting insight into their culture, and gave us a chance to throw spears and play didgeridoos.

We are now in Singapore, which is clean and efficient, as everyone seems to say. The place seems to be one big shopping mall - we have no idea how so many shops can keep going - but Suze is especially excited about dragging Duncan around them all before our next flight, saying that it is compensation for having to camp! On Saturday night, we fly back to the UK for a few days to catch up with family, before heading off to the States and Canada in early May. More emails (hopefully more regularly) will follow from the US.

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photo by: easyjobrob