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The Whitsundays is another of those must do things in Australia. We had been looking forward to it for a long time. We had seen lots of pictures and heard lots of stories so knew what to expect from the trip. We also knew exactly what we wanted from the trip, boat and crew which made choosing a lot easier. We spent 2 days and 1 night sailing around the beautiful islands. The boat we chose was a racing yacht called Siska and had a relatively few number of passengers (25) looked after by 3 crew members including Jack the Cornish lad. We were also joined on the trip buy two Dutch girls called Freya and Susan from our campsite who were really good fun.

Jo was a little nervous about being sea sick after the 1770 trip so we decided to give him some sea sickness tablets. Unfortunately whilst half asleep I gave him the wrong dosage as unbeknown to me we had two sets in the first aid kit. This meant that he was overdosed and about half an hour after taking them was not looking so hot. He couldn’t walk in a straight line and could not focus his eyes long enough to read anything. It is fair to say that the drugs were working but perhaps a little too much. He soldiered on and we started the long walk to the boat. To try and soak up some of the medicine I got him a large bacon sangar which he was very pleased with. When we got aboard the boat where the motion started to make him feel a bit more stable. Within about 6 hours he was back to normal. Ooops!

Siska is a 23 metre long yacht from Perth with two sails. It was designed for speed and had been an Australian racing yacht winning lots of awards and had sailed around the world. It had since been retired and fully decked out for taking tourists around the islands. We had a double berth for our one night at sea with its own hatch to the deck of the boat.

Whitehaven Beach.

Whitehaven Beach.

After a brief safety talk it was all hands on deck and we got a chance to participate in raising the sails, which was great fun. Once we were sailing, well sail assisted as the wind was only blowing 10 – 15 knots!, we were off to the extremely well photographed (after only Uluru and the Sydney Opera House) Hill Inlet lookout which looks over Whitehaven beach. This was gorgeous and one the most stunning beach views we had seen in Oz. There was a gorgeous combination of many shades of turquoise water and white silica sand which made beautiful patterns of colours across the inlet. This was definitely the place for photographs and as a consequence had a fair few other people around. After enjoying the view we headed down and chilled on the sand of Whitehaven beach for a bit. It was lovely but I have to say that Australians call it the most beautiful beach in the world and I am not sure I would agree. It is stunning but so are lots of beaches for many different reasons. This one was peaceful and picturesque but had no life or vibe to it unlike a surf beach. Perhaps it was the clouds coming in but we weren’t feeling it. That night we had a few drinks tried our hardest to figure out the cryptic mind puzzles the crew had given us and admired the stars.

On day two we headed off to one of the best snorkeling spots in the islands. The water was warmish and we jumped in. Although part of the Great Barrier Reef this was more of a fringing reef and so was not nearly as spectacular as the Fitzroy Reef Lagoon. There were still lots of colourful fish and amazing coral so we were happy. It made us really appreciate what we had already seen and reflect on how colourful that had been.

Nara Inlet

Nara Inlet

As it was a cloudy day snorkeling did not take as long as usual so the crew took us to Nara Inlet. This is a picturesque little inlet which is very sheltered on 3 sides by large cliffs covered in rainforest. Apparently this is where the boats shelter if there is a cyclone as it is so well protected, this also makes it a perfect breeding ground for hammerhead sharks. We did not see any though as it was the wrong time of year. Our crazy crew decided this was a great spot for doing a rope swing off the boat. There weren’t any takers as you had to swing high otherwise you would crash into the railing and we had just been told about the hammerheads! We were then taken in shore to explore an old aboriginal cave with cave art. This was very interesting a real treat as it was not planned. We heard about how the aboriginals in that area used the water ways and made canoes. It was fascinating.

The ride home was very peaceful and again we did a bit more sailing. We enjoyed chatting to Freya and Susan and wished that they were heading North not South so that we could do a bit more with them. After we got off the yacht and were heading off the marina to our surprise we spotted a green turtle. He was right next to the shore in the busy marina just going about his business.

Back on dry land everyone went their separate ways but decided to meet up in the pub that evening, this was helped by the free drinks on offer by the company! Luckily the drinks were in our hostel so we didn’t have far to go. Freya and Susan joined us and it was a great way to end the trip. that was made possible thanks to my aunt and uncle – thanks guys!

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Rainbow Beach

Rainbow Beach is popular with backpackers as one of the gateways to Fraser Island. As a result there isn’t really much there. There is a small string of shops in the town (all the essentials) and that is about it. We were going to Fraser Island from Hervey Bay and so we were only focused on enjoying Rainbow Beach, luckily there are some very lovely natural things to enjoy.

The beach is named after its coloured sands. As you walk along the bay towards the headland the sand in the cliffs becomes more and more multicoloured and apparently (we did not get this far as it was several miles along) eventually it has every colour of the rainbow. We saw black, yellow, orange and red which was very impressive. It was similar to the coloured sands you see on the Isle of Wight. Because the beach is so long it is custom to drive your 4×4 along the beach to get to where you want to go (and the awesome surf which we had to miss out on ūüė¶¬† –¬† Jo). When the tide comes in the beach is no longer accessible by car. A few people have been notoriously caught out!

Rainbow at Rainbow Beach

Rainbow at Rainbow Beach

Above the beach is a large sand blow. We weren’t sure what a sand blow was. Apparently it is a moving sand dune, a large area of sand being gradually blown inland and clearing whatever lays in its path.¬†It was¬†stunning. There was an immense amount of sand with very steep sides. You could see the remains of the rainforest it had cleared still trying to cling on and sticking out the top of the sand. The view over the bay was beautiful. We sat here out of the wind and enjoyed some sunshine while admiring the view.

Due to the fact that it is winter the weather was a bit temperamental whilst we were here. We experienced a few stormy showers. This was actually very beautiful as with each stormy shower there was a beautiful rainbow cast over the bay. I know that this is not why Rainbow Beach is called Rainbow Beach but it really made our stay here. We must have seen 6 or more rainbows from various locations on the beach and at the sand blow. It was beautiful. We could see both ends of the rainbows and sometimes you could even see two at once. We really enjoyed watching them.

The campsite here was different to a lot of the ones we had been staying in recently in that it had the rare addition of a TV room. We had not watched TV for some time and we were delighted that there was something that we could do in the dark evenings just to switch off a bit. I enjoyed catching up on Neighbours and Jo enjoyed watching the Ashes. We also were able to catch up on Australia Masterchef, a TV programme which we had unintentionally caught bits of since it started just as we arrived in the country. It was now nearing the final and we had seen enough of it to want to know who would win. It was also good at giving us culinary tips. It was a rare treat.

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After three solid days of heavy rain and a soaked tent we had had enough so headed North to the Sunshine Coast in hope that it would live up to its name. It did.

We arrived in the rain and slept in the car so we stayed dry. When we woke up in the morning the sun was shining, the birds were singing and it was lovely and warm. It was brilliant. We got all of the wet stuff out and dryed it out. Within an hour we were all dry and ready to set up camp and explore the Sunshine Coast.

Drying Out on the Sunshine Coast

Drying Out on the Sunshine Coast

We were in Caloundra which is the most southern of the Sunshine Coasts towns. It is a small town on the river and had a lovley beach town feel about it. We spent about three days in Caloundra. We were introduced to our first expereince of the very very noisy Little Corellas, which are a type of parrots.

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We were waiting in Brisbane to go to North Stradbroke Island but wanted to go when it was sunny. Unfortunately for us instead of getting sunny the weather decided to chuck it down. It hammered it down for three days solid. The campsite was not set up for it and had minimal drains which meant that the ground flooded.

We were sitting in our tent and started to feel water coming through the bottom of the tent. It was only a little bit but we were definitely getting wet. We decided the leg it with our sleeping bags into the car. We managed to keep everything dry apart from us. We spent the next two nights sleeping nice and dry in the car.

The Australians don’t seem to know what to do when it rains. They react in the same way as the Brits do when it snows. Everything grinds to a stop and people drive like idiots. People give the excuse that its raining so they can’t get to work. Its crazy!

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So apparently we brought the weather with us… Just a few days after we got back to Yamba it started to bucket down with rain.¬† The news said that Brisbane and the Gold Coast (where we had just driven through) was getting hit hard and likely to get flash floods.¬† They weren’t wrong and then it started moving towards us.¬† For several days we had non-stop bad weather which caused floods for the the north New South Wales coast.¬† Luckily for us Yamba didn’t flood at all but we got cut off from the mainland as the roads out of Yamba were¬† underwater.

Aussie house in Flood

Aussie house in Flood

In between the storms we took a few rides out in the hostel van to look at the water levels and the damage so far.¬† It was quite impressive.¬† We couldn’t drive for more than 10 minutes before we had to stop due to the water.¬† Lots of houses and garden were starting to flood and there were a couple of cars that were sticking out of water at least a few feet deep.¬† On our way back the emergency services blocked off the road.

As the rain carried on coming, the storms picked up and rivers started to rise.¬† The beaches got covered in foam and even a few dead farm animals got washed ashore. The winds started tearing up the landscape.¬† The pub that I worked in over Chrissy got put on alert as it was at risk of falling down the cliff into the sea, that didn’t stop the locals on a Friday night though.

Luckily the levee walls near us didn’t break (but it was very close).¬†

A stormy beach walk

A stormy beach walk

Yamba was getting supplies helicoptered in as the shops were starting to sell out but we didn’t really notice the shortage too much.¬† Everyone in Yamba was fairly relaxed about the situation but by the end of it some of the backpackers were itching to get out.¬† The day the roads opened, the hostel nearly emptied!

Things are starting to get back to normal now but the weather is still very unpredictable.¬† We’ve taken a tour round the area and a lot of the beaches are slightly different shapes with new rocks now uncovered.¬† All around the area are snapped telegraph poles and uprooted trees.¬† We’re just grateful that we hadn’t started camping when all this hit.

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So we finally did something we’ve wanted to do since being kids – a Christmas (or Chrissy as they call it here) in Oz!¬† It was a scorcher for the big day and we started off by stumbling out of bed and going down to Pippie beach for a surf.¬† I was knackered as I was working up at the pub for Chrissy Eve (which is the biggest night out in Yamba) and the punters didn’t leave ’til 2am, but I was still keen to get in the water.¬† About 15 of us went down and the surf was pretty good and¬†I managed to get a few good waves in but got rolled by some of the big ones.¬† It was great to have such a big group of us chilling out the back together and I was stoked to do my first surf on Christmas day.

When we got back to the hostel the owners started getting lunch ready whilst everyone got themselves sorted.¬† Ruth and I opened our cards and pressies (a big thanks to our families for all the stuff you sent) and then went and chilled out in the lounge.¬† It wasn’t long before the guys brought the beers and the¬†prawns out.¬† I’ve never seen so many prawns in my life and tried my first one.¬† I’m not a big seafood fan so wasn’t blown away but it was quite nice.¬† Apparently Yamba prawns are amongst the best in Oz but I’ll have to take the guidebook’s (and the local’s) word for that.

Chrissy lunch- yum yum

Chrissy lunch- yum yum

Lunch was a HUGE buffet style spread that had everything from loads of different meats to roast potatoes, various bakes and salads/ veggies.  I had a bit of pretty much everything and was absolutlely stuffed.

They had a huge range of puddings too with trifle being the most popular with the Aussies.  I tucked into a rather large slice of homemade Mars bar cheesecake which was amazing.  We had crackers that had paper hats, crap toys and bad jokes Рjust like home.

Post-lunch Snooze

Post-lunch Snooze

As is my Christmas tradition I then enjoyed a post-lunch snooze.  Ruth kindly took a picture (which is on Facebook) and Justin, one of the hostel owners, woke me up by trying to put wine gums up my nose and yelling at me to join him for another beer.

After more drinking we all decided to go back down to the beach to play games.  We got all the games together as well as a giant esky (cool box) for all our drinks and off we went.  We taught everyone how to play quick cricket but Justin (one of the hostel owners) got knackered and started moaning so we played rounders instead.  After this everyone felt they deserved a few drinks!

Beach Cricket

Beach Cricket

Ruth and I went for a stroll by the water, it was nice to see loads of families out on the beach.  With one of our friends from the hostel Ruth and I decided to build a snowman Рout of sand!

Pippie the Sandman and Us

Pippie the Sandman and Us

The snow/sand man nearly didn’t make it as Justin’s little girl nearly knocked him down, luckily we just about quick enough to stop her.

After more drinking on the beach we returned to the hostel where the merryment continued into the night.  Ruth and I went up to the roof of the hostel to enjoy a quiet drink under the stars before we video called our families over the Internet to wish them a Merry Christmas and see them open their pressies from us which we had bought before we left the UK and hidden.

After that we had a nightcap and passed out!

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HUGE Thunderstorm

One night a major thunderstorm came in.  We were having a BBQ and could see it coming.  The sky went extremly dark and it chucked it down.

The sky was then lit up with fork lightning all around and the thunder was booming.  We decided to go down to the beach to watch it as we both love thunderstorms, our friends at the hostel decided to stay indoors!

Dressed in a mac and boardies (having removed all metalic objects) we walked down the beach.¬† We stayed there for about half an hour and were treated to a beautiful thunderstorm.¬† Fork lightning was everywhere in all directions and we saw it strike Lennox Point several times.¬† It wasn’t at all like a storm in England where you can wait a few minutes between each lightning strike, they were happening every second or so.¬† Quite a few times the whole beach lit up in a bright purple colour which was almost as bright as daylight.¬† It was awesome.¬† The forks were so big that you had time to see one out of the corner of your eye, turn and watch it pulse in the air – we’ve never seen anything like it.

We were very wet and cold when we returned, but it was worth it.  The storm carried on well into the night but was moving away from us.  Best storm yet.

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