A Travellerspoint blog

Week 10 & 11- East Coast of Australia Part 1

Cairns, Mission Beach, Magnetic Island, Airlie Beach, Whitsundays, Kroombit Cattle Farm, Rockhampton, Agnes Water:1770, Hervey Bay

Cairns

After our flight from Singapore to Sydney (where we managed to get another cheeky upgrade) then a connecting flight from Sydney to Cairns (where we saw a huge crowd and paparazzi which we later learnt was for Kim Karadashian!) we arrived in Cairns! We were both so excited to be in Oz that we ignored the jet lag and fought through. We stayed at the party hostel known as the "G spot" Gilighans. Our dorm was also party central as we got to know our dorm mates most of whom where from Holland. We drank some goon (too much) played cards and Dutch drinking games which we won't forget in a hurry before continuing the night in our hostel's nightclub.

Waking up a bit worse for wear, we went to the lagoon and chilled in the sun, enjoying a swim for the first time in weeks. The evening was also chilled as we cooked up a lovely bbq around the lagoon along with our new Dutch friends!

Mission Beach

The next morning we were up early and had a walk to the bus stop with our heavy bags where we would catch the first of many Oz Experience buses. The Oz Experience tour allows us to jump on and off of many buses as we travel down the East Coast, the crazy drivers offer invaluable advice and they will even book up your next accommodation!

We arrived at Mission Beach to Scottys's hostel, a chilled out place with a lovely pool. The beach, although near, wasn't the best place to go as you have to wear a stinger suit to swim in the sea or get stung by the BOX JELLYFISH which give off a neuro-toxic sting which can shut down the organs of a human within 20 seconds. Also the whole area was badly affected by hurricane Yasi earlier this year so is still being repaired. We spent a few days chilling at the hostel - the main things to do in Mission are sky diving and white water rafting. I wasn't too keen on rafting and as for the sky dive, we aren't feeling that brave...yet!

We made some friends that we were to spend the next couple of weeks with and enjoyed their company and laughs.

Magnetic Island

The next stop...Magnetic Island. After a couple of hours driving, our Oz driver stopped so we could go for a swim and cool off in a fresh water lake on a 5 mile creek. Then it was onto Townsville where we caught the ferry over to Magnetic. The island is tiny and almost in a different world from the rest of the mainland. We stayed at Base, which is a huge hostel in a beautiful location right on the beach with bungalow dorms and a very lively bar which was wild everynight! We spent a few days on the island, visting a Koala sanctuary where we held one, along with a huge snake. baby crocodile, and many other reptiles! A sweaty walk through the Forts Walk providied us with amazing views of the island and we spotted wild Koala's. One evening at dusk we went to see the Rock Wallabys, hopping aorund the rocks. We had some laughs with our new found traveller friends - one night the boys attended "ladies night" at the hostel bar, dressed in our girls clothes. The catwalk saw Paul coming in 3rd place and wining a free beer - so it was worth it! Paul went on a fishing trip with the lads - being his first trip it wasn't that successful, and he ended up casting the line into the rocks and having to break off the hook, weight and bait because it was stuck..oopps!!

Airlie Beach and The Whitsundays

Another day, another bus...to Airlie Beach where we met our friends at Nomads hostel and they surprised us by revealing they had booked onto the same sailing trip as us due to leave the next day! We set off the next morning to board our 2day, 2night sailing boat - The British Defender! Where we would sail around the Whitsundays. All really excited the 6 of us stocked up on alcohol - 60 beers and 15 litres of goon! (very cheap nasty wine=headache) Thinking we were really organised we jumped on a bus with the booze hoping for a short journey to the marina! The driver didnt tell us where to get off and we ended up in the next town which was up and over a huge hill. The madness began... Paul will tell the rest...

...Well, we had about 15 minutes to get to the marina for the pre-departure safety chat etc so I ran ahead with Dan to hold up the other 22 passengers while the other 4 in our group pushed the booze (in a supermarket trolley) up and over the hill about 1.5km. During our desperate sprint to the marina, not knowing exactly how far away it was we had to jump over a small garden fence! At the time we thought nothing of it!...

Once we had successfully reached the marina I decided to run back to help the other 4 with the trolley nervous that they wouldn't make it in time. I reached the top of the hill but couldnt see them. I assumed that somehow they had got past me! By this time I was physically exhausted from the midday sun and all the running and I became desperate. For the first time in my life I tried hitch-hiking my way back down to the marina as there was only 15 minutes to go before the boat left. After a minute of frantic waving at cars going past a police van pulled over and asked how he could help... I was pretty nervous as I always get when seeing foreign police forces because they always seem so much scarier than British police. I politely asked for a lift to the marina and explained how the bus driver hadn't told us where to get off. He calmly got out of the van then in a very loud, stern voice said that he had seen me and someone else tresspassing through a garden and that I had no chance in hell of making the boat. He threw me in the back of the van and said we were going to find my accomplice. Whilst sitting in the shiny white cell in the back of the van I could see the face of the officer in his rear view mirror through a small circular window and I was desperately hoping he would crack a smile to his colleague and then I would know that he was just trying to scare me.

The smile never came. We pulled up at the marina and it was there that in front of Nat and our 4 friends the office unlocked the back of the van. The shock on their faces was amazing. After another stern talking to, we were let go and we made the boat only holding it up 5 minutes.

After all the drama we settled onto the boat and all took part in helping with the sails as we made our way across the sea sailing at a 45 degree angle with our feet dangling over the side of the boat. A few hours in, we stopped at False Nara and put on our sexy stinger outfits to go snorkling. A while later we set sail to Hook passage where we put down the anchor for the night and had a lovely BBQ. Then we made a huge dent in our stash of alcohol whilst partying the night away at sea under the stars. An early start the next morning combined with way too many hangovers meant we were all feeling very delicate. Sailing over to the Whitsunday island and getting off at Tongue Bay we were trying to lift our spirits. A 10minute walk through the island and we found paradise, the amazing views over Whitehaven beach was the best hangover cure we could think of. The crystal clear blue/green sea and the white powder like sand was amazing, we sunbathed, messed around in the sea, spotted baby sharks swimming and enjoyed the view for a few hours. Then it was back on the boat for lunch and quick snorkle around luncheon bay where the captain of the boat threw fish food around us and we were swarmed by hundreds of amazing colourful fish! The last stop of the day was Langford Island where we watched the beautiful sunset on the beach. The relaxed evening continued as a couple of the staff serinaded us with their guitars and our sailing trip was complete, a wonderful 2days with get company and stories we wont forget!!

Kroombit Cattle Farm

We boarded an overnight bus to Rockhampton where we spent 4hours waiting in Mc Donalds for our Oz bus to Kroombit Farm where we would become cowboys for the day! We arrived at the farm, like another world it was full of all sorts of animals, log cabins, and the smell of fresh steak cooking on an outside fire. A delicious bbq lunch was served and we spent some time relaxing around the pool, before the cowboy hats and bandanas came on and we learnt how to lasso goats at the rodeo! Once the practice was over we each had to enter a pen with about 10 wild goats in and select one to catch in less than a minute. Thankfully and surprisingly we both completed the challenge and were really pleased with our catches as we had to straddle the goat, grab him by the horns, and take the rope off! Paul tried his luck at clay pigeon shooting very well and later we rode a mechanical bull which saw my helmet fall straight off my head and me flying over the top of the bull in seconds...a sport not for me!!

After our cowboy outback style roast dinner we were taught how to crack a whip. Something that looks easier than it is! A few quiet cracks later and sveral hard self inflicted whip marks across Paul's back...we were done for the evening!

Rockhampton

The next morning it was back to Rockhampton where we got a free nights stay at a lovely hostel with a pool near the beach. We went to a real life rodeo practice in a local pub, with a steak dinner included as we are in the Steak capital of Oz! We watched the hrses and bulls be riden by tiny kids and adults in an attempt to stay on it for as long as possible. We enjoyed some drinks and continued the party at the hostel bar with some friends where we all signed our names of the wall and Paul drew his infamous sonice...this time cowboy style with a lasso!!

Agnes Water/Town 1770

Agnes Water/Town 1770 is named after the year in which Captain Cook first landed in Australia and claimed it as British. The town is pretty quiet and after a hectic few days we thought it would be nice to do a tour of the area. We hired electric bicycles and followed a group guided by "Marcus" around the town. We saw wild kangaroos, learnt about the types of plants Aboriginal people used to cook and eat, fed fish at the marina, and saw the statue that lies where Captain Cook first stepped. Whilst there, Marcus painted clay on our faces to get us into the cultured spirit of things. We went up to a view point before cycling back into town and back to our hippie hostel where we collapsed with exhaustion!

Hervey Bay

Unfortunately we arrived too late in Hervey Bay to go and see the whales..but we hope to catch them further down the coast. After a crazy couple of weeks we decided to stay here for a few days, we chilled, took advantage of our hostels free internet, relaxed on the beach and took sunset walks. The sand here is amazingly fine like powder and squeaks when you dig your toes in it!

Next stop is Brisbane to meet up with the Boyce's!! Then we will travel up to Noosa for a few days, and all the way back down the coast finishing in Sydney...the adventure has only just began........

Posted by pjr6 17:22 Comments (0)

Week 9 - Singapore

The journey from Melaka was quite smooth. 4 and a half hours and a couple of passport check ins later and we arrived at the bus station and then found our way to the hostel.

We stayed just a short walk from Little India where the main attraction is "Mustafa" department store. This huge store looked like their version of Londons Harrods and sold pretty much everything you could think of.

Singapore compared to its neighboring countries (Thailand and Malaysia) is pretty expensive so we had to watch the pennies. Our first day, we took a nice cultural stroll through the main shopping district called Orchard Mall! (Singapore's Oxford Street)
In the afternoon we headed down to the Zoo and Night Safari which we had heard only good things about. We enjoyed the afternoon in the Zoo seeing some animals and creatures we had never seen before. We were surprised at how open and exposed the animals were to the public but they seemed to stay within their territory. Even the Tigers were only separated from us by a little stream! But then we're used to Tigers now anyway so that wasn't such a problem!

We also watched a sea lion show which was amazing and like watching a show at Sea World Florida.

When the evening came, it was on to the Night Safari. We watched a live fire show whilst waiting for the park to open. We got comfy in the front row which turned out not to be such a good idea. After watching about 5 minutes of various displays of dance, scorching stunts and fire blowing Paul felt a hand on his shoulder! He was being summonsed to the stage with the half naked fire blowing stunt men. His shirt was stripped off him as he took part in their performance. Much to my delight my camera battery kept going and I was able to film the whole thing..... which I will use as bribery material!!

We continued the evening by taking a tram ride through the park seeing all the animals and we were able to stop to take some walking trails which was fun in the dark.

We visit the Botanic Gardens and took in the beautiful scenery. It is nice that the second most densely populated country in the world, has still remained one of the most green with its protected parklands and reservoirs.

The next day we visited Clarke Quay which is a beautiful little town situated on a river. We took a boat cruise down to Marina Bay seeing the waterfront restaurants and bars and passing beautiful hotels including the 6star Fullerton. The most amazing sight was the 4 Billion Pound Marina Bay Sands Hotel which is 3 huge towers and what looks like a giant boat resting on the top of all 3 at 55 stories high.

On Day 3 I made the mistake of letting Paul read the Lonely Planet guid book. Of course I knew what this would mean and sure enough his suggestion was to spend the day at McRichie Reservior hiking! We walked a total of 12km around the lake and throught eh forestry. Half way around we walked along a 250m tree top suspension bridge which had some pretty amazing views. Although tiring we both really enjoyed the energetic today and felt a sense of achievement when we had finished.

On our last day the weather was rather poor. Heavy rain meant we didnt make it out until the evening so we were glad we had taken full advantage of the glorious sunshine on the first 3 days.

Next stop....Austrailia! We are both so excited to get to Cairns, begin our ride on the Oz Experience coach and check in at our Hostel which from the pictures looks like a 24/7 party! Getting to Oz also means we can count down the days until the Boyces meet us in Brisbane....

Posted by pjr6 22:05 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

Week 8 - Kuala Lumpur/Melaka

Kuala Lumpur
We arrived at the coach station a few hours after leaving the Cameron Highlands and found our hostel just a few hundred yards away, which suited us in the heat with our huge backpacks on. The greeting at our guesthouse was brilliant. The lady sat us down with a big map and told us what there was to do in the area which was so helpful and instantly made us feel at home. Kuala Lumpur, although a big city is quite compact and most places are easilly reached by foot or monorail, traffic is a nightmare so we avoided it. We spent a total of 5 days here and covered everything on the map but ended up with very sore legs every day, still now we don't have gym memberships and dinner every night seems to be curry we didn't mind!

We went to various shopping malls, with a topshop, zara, mango to name a few so I had to be strong and resist them which please Paul, but I just looked around the cheap shops instead :)

On our first day we went to the Menara Tower which at 421 meters tall is the 4th highest communication tower in the world. We took a ride to the observation deck and saw 360 degree views of the city. Next stop was to see the Petronas Towers, standing at 88 storeys high they are the tallest twin towers in the world. We wanted to take a walk along the skybridge between the two towers on the 41st floor but it was closed for repairs. Instead we had heard many of the hotels had amazing views of the towers and the surrounding park. Trying our luck we went to the Traders Hotel, which has a Skybar set around a swimming pool located on its 33rd floor. The views were brilliant and we managed to get our photos without even being asked if we wanted a drink - we must look like true travellers!

We explored many restaurants all serving the local dishes and very cheap, took a walk along Bukit Bintang and admired all the bright city lights and bars. We decided to get cultured to so visited the National Museum, Planetarium and we went north of the city to visit Batu Caves which has a huge Buddha statue and a 200 step climb to the top to see the caves.

Chinatown and Little India of course were must sees, especially as it's the month of the Deepavali festival, all the streets were lit up with music blaring out of the shops. On our last day we headed out of town to Lake Titiwangsa we chilled in the sun with an ice cream and took a ride around the lake on a pedelo. In the evening we went back to the Skybar to have one last look at the city but by night. This time we had a drink, well shared a bottle of cider at least! It was the perfect way to end our stay in this amazing city.

Melaka
A couple of hours on a bus and we arrived in Melaka, the 20 minute sweaty walk to the hostel with our heavy bags wasn't ideal, but the locals helped us out with directions which was useful! Our hostel was just outside Chinatown, and the owner Howard was quite a character and very accommodating. We enjoyed the communal area along with the other guests and watched several films and chilled there each evening.

We spent two days exploring the historical town, a river runs through the centre of it and you could be mistaken for thinking you were in Italy with the quirky buildings and beautiful bridges. We took a boat trip along the river, visited a Maritime Museum set in a huge old ship. We wandered around the streets of Chinatown sampling their food, including the famous rice balls. Howard took all of the guests out for dinner to a local outside Indian restaurant and recommended some dishes. I had a tosai massala which is a big savoury pancake filled with potato and veg with several dips all for only 50p!

We hired bikes and rod around the town mostly the wrong way around the streets! Found a shopping complex where we both bought a book to keep us occupied for the next couple of weeks as we prepare for Singapore and Australia!!

Posted by pjr6 06:32 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Week 7 - Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

We were sad to leave Penang but excited to visit the highlands as we'd heard and read good things about them. The journey was only 3.5 hrs long (including a stop for Paul to throw up as the steep winding roads were making him car sick!) We finally arrived at our guesthouse which was at the top of a hill and set within beautiful gardens.

Cameron Highlands is so far above sea level and in the centre of Malaysia that the temperature is much cooler than we were used too. Not ideal as Paul send his only jumper home and has lost his only trousers! The Village of Tanah Rata reminds us of a Swiss holiday resort minus the snow. Beautiful Tudor style chalets cover the landscape along with huge fir trees and mossy ground.

As we headed out in the afternoon, one of the gardeners had found a pretty big scorpion and some of the guests were holding it so of course Paul got involved. The evening was pretty cold and raining so we chilled in the lounge area of the guest house and all watched a film; 127 Hours. A film about a climber who gets stuck between two rocks in the remote Utah desert and can only escape by cutting his arm off...... Paul now wants to buy an army knife for "emergencies!"

The next day we followed one of the many walking trails which led us along a stream and through the forest ending conveniently at a beautiful Old English Tudor style restaurant/hotel that we had read about. We could have been in England with its old fashioned pub style interior, wooden beams and colourful gardens. Being tight travellers we wanted to enjoy the scenery but not spend too much so I had a cream tea (and sipped the water in my bag) and Paul had ice cream but splashed out on a coke!

We also did a countryside tour where we spent the morning looking around the various sights of the local towns including a temple, rose gardens, a strawberry farm, butterfly park, bea/honey farm and tea plantations. Cameron Highlands is famous for its strawberries and tea so of course we sampled both at the various stops.

Posted by pjr6 20:29 Comments (0)

Week 6 - Penang, Malaysia

Penang in our opinion is a must see on any Malaysia visit. The initial contrasts to its Thai neighbour are clear; prior to independance in 1957, Penang was under British rule therefore, much English influence still remains. Most importantly (in our opinion) they share our alphabet which makes navigating around much easier than Thailand. Also communicating with Malaysian people was relatively easy as they are taught English from an early age (from an English dictionary a local told us)

Although not as pretty as the Thai islands, it has loads of interesting history to learn and plenty to do. We stayed in Georgetown the capital and the first day after just a four hour journey from southern Thailand we went out on foot to explore. We came across Little India (no, not the lovely little curry house in Petts Wood) Malaysia's equivalent to Londons Brick lane. There was a nice vibe here and it was particular lively becuse Deepvali (festival of light) runs in October. The streets were lit up and music was playing from most stalls and shops. Restaurant owners were calling for us to eat there but not with the usual annoying persistance of other places we have visited like Koh Samui.

The next day we spent a couple of hours doing the walking tour around George town which was recommended in our Lonely Planet book. This took us past the towns key attractions and conveniently finishes at a bar. The weather was scorching and this couldn't have come soon enough. Whilst talking to the landlady, she suggested that we go to Penang Hill. We looked it up and decided to make it our next destination. It ws initially named "Strawberry Hill" by an English man which was a nice touch. We took a cable car to the top hich had great views of the island and of the entire 13.5km bridge connecting Penang to the rest of Malaysia. We finished the evening with a local curry in Little India.

On our penultimate day we used our new found knowledge of the transport system and got a 'rapid bus' to the Penang National Park, which is another must see! With several trails to choose from, we chose one running along the shore and spent the next couple of hours semi-hiking through a man-made pathway taking in beautiful views as we went.

Posted by pjr6 04:54 Comments (0)

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