Driving on Fraser Island
After spending almost two full weeks in the small city of Cairns, I had no other choice but to leave. If it wasn’t for my booked flight to New Zealand in less than 48 hours, chances are I would have stuck around for an additional two weeks. There isn’t much to do in this backpacker friendly city if you aren’t diving in the Great Barrier Reef, but it’s a great place to just sit back and get lost in the sun. I spent a good amount of time there updating my journal, sleeping in a real bed, watching soccer, anticipating my dives on the largest living organism in the world and cooking pasta in a warm hostel kitchen as opposed to an outdoor stove.
The much anticipated World Cup started while I was in Cairns and with the time differences between here and South Africa, we were given 9:30pm, 12:00am, and 4:30am time slots to view the games. The game times aren’t ideal at all, but besides spending it with friends back home I can’t think of a better way to celebrate one of the biggest sporting events than to spend it with a bunch of backpackers from all over the world.
Is anyone else fascinated yet disturbed as to how frequent slow motion replay is used at the World Cup?
My initial plan on the Great Barrier Reef was to do some diving for a day or two maximum, but after taking a look at the prices for just a day trip out to the reef, it was easy for me to decide that pursuing my Advanced Diving Certification would be a wise choice, considering that I already had it on my bucket list. The price included my advanced diving certification, living on a boat for 3 days/2nights, 11 dives and a smorgasbord of good food! A typical day involved getting up at 5:30 a.m., dive, breakfast, dive, snack, dive, lunch, snorkel, dinner, night dive, sleep. The schedule was a little much for a lot of us on the boat, but we all came out there to dive, so dive we did. The main highlights in the Great Barrier Reef were blue spotted sting-rays, the famous wrasse, oversized clams, several green turtles and sharks during our night dive. The reef is an amazing place and I wish I had more time and money to spend out there, but one thing from my experience that I noticed was that the reef is deteriorating at a rapid rate. When I was at the beach in Cape Tribulation just days earlier there were hundreds of pieces of hard coral washed up on the shore. Small pieces, large pieces and fish of all sizes were everywhere throughout the sand. There is no doubt that global warming does have an effect on the deterioration, but the main contributor to the destruction of the reef are by the people like myself who dive to explore the unknown. During a number of dives our instructors and those getting certified would accidentally have parts of their diving gear or fins brush up against the reef snapping off bits and pieces of coral that take years to grow. Lots of divers who are naïve pick up coral and move them around or touch the marine life such as the green turtles, which sounds fun to do unless you are educated that over time this will actually kill them. The thing is, I’m brand new to the diving world. I’ve gone diving in Thailand and just recently, the Great Barrier Reef. In this short time I have slowly understood the ramifications we as people are making on this natural wonder that surrounds us all over the world. I’m not saying I’ll never dive again. I have loved every minute of each dive, but I’ve learned there is a world in the water that is dependent on us as much as we are dependent on them. I understand that many of the people reading this don’t dive at all or don’t plan to do so, but I hope that those who pursue diving in the future do their part in making sure we keep these treasures for our future generations.
A great surprise over the last several weeks was making a trip out to Fraser Island. The largest sand island in the world is an adventure even before you arrive since only 4×4’s are allowed, which means heaps of off-roading! Since the German guy I was traveling with had a 4×4, we saved a huge amount of money by only needing to pay for the ferry to and from the island. Once on the island we saw several wild dingoes, a shipwreck on the shore, and probably one of the coolest things I’ve experienced in Australia, humpback whales passing by along the coast just 150 meters from shore. It was completely unexpected since it was still a few weeks away from whale watching season, but this made it all the better. Just seeing this modern beast jumping into the air and crashing into the blue water below put the three of us in a trance for over an hour. When things were great, it only got better when the three of us ventured out to the northwestern part of the island, which seemed untouched. Crystal clear water, white sands, blue skies and no one else in sight. We felt like we had found the Fountain of Youth. Jumping around and swimming we probably looked like fools, but it didn’t matter. We were trying to soak up as much of this urban legend as possible, and I think we did a pretty good job in doing so.
Tim Tams. I eat an entire tray of them, get sick and two days later I’m back at it again.
At the moment I’m outside of a coffee shop in a beautiful town called Coolangatta with my two friends from Germany and France, respectively. As some of my close friends know I do this bit every now and then (typically when I have a few drinks in me), where I take my cell phone and pretend I’m talking with high-end clients about mumbo jumbo. It usually involves a mythical million dollar contract or the occasional firing of some employee who sent me a PDF file instead of a Word document I requested. It’s all made up on the spot and I usually get some friends involved too, which makes it fun. Well, we’ve been playing this bit for the last 24 hours and used it a few minutes ago next to a guy who just sat down at the table next to us. After I got off my phone call involving a ‘million dollar contract in Sydney with a computer software company’, I told my German friend Niels that I would need the updated PowerPoint presentation before our meeting at 5. (I usually go off on specific tangents when I know people are wondering what on earth is going on). At this point, the guy next to me, leans in and asks what kind of business we were in. I was puzzled that anyone would actually take us seriously, but I just rolled with it. I went on talking about our make believe company based in the states and that we were doing some networking in the area. He explained that after his meeting with a client that he was about to talk with, he wanted to chat with me about our company and possibly network our two businesses, so I agreed. After a few minutes I sort of thought things through and thought it wasn’t funny anymore because I was joking around, and the guy was completely serious. At one point the guy took a break from his meeting and looked over at my computer screen to see me on Facebook. After a quick think I told him I was taking a break from business and that Facebook had been an essential tool for our growing company. (I was there to use the free wifi from the McDonalds next door so I wasn’t going anywhere). After thirty minutes the guy started this long spiel about this company he’s involved in and how he wanted me and my ‘co-workers’ aka my travel mates to get involved. He said him and some business members were getting together for a meeting at a local venue later that night and invited us out. While it all sounded interesting yet strange at the same time, I cut to the chase and told him that we were flying to Sydney in a few hours, which was actually true for a change. Needless to say, after the guy left we stopped with the make believe business calls until further notice.
Pictures from my time on the Great Barrier Reef and travels from the remainder of the East Coast have been loaded in the photos section.
In less than 48 hours I’ll be leaving Australia, my home for the better part of the last four months. It has been quite a journey to say the least. I had no idea how I was going to get around Australia once I left Sydney, but it all worked out in the end. Lots of sleeping in tents and cars helped slash accommodation costs and the number of people looking for travel partners around Australia far exceeded my expectations. In order to get a true taste of this beautiful country you need to take the less luxurious path. Flying from city to city or taking a bus from town to town won’t allow you to take in the sights and sounds between the major cities in Australia. The slow road is the only way to go.
My original goal of coming to Australia and working for two to three months then traveling didn’t pan out as well as I had anticipated, but in the end it worked out for the best, as do most things when traveling. If things worked out the way they were supposed to, life for me right now would be different. I wouldn’t have met the great people I have met, chances are I wouldn’t have traveled where I have traveled and the memories I made with these people wouldn’t exist. It all sounds dramatic re-reading what I just wrote, but I’ve found it interesting that one small decision or move can completely change ones life for better or for worse.
The weather outside has definitely changed over the last week as I’ve made my way south along the east coast towards Sydney. Winter is now in full effect and will be made even more apparent when I step off the plane in Auckland on Thursday. I have a little over a month to spend between the two islands, but will make better use of time down in the southern island. To be honest, I have no idea what to expect, except the fact that everywhere I look is supposed to be more or less like a picturesque postcard from Lord of the Rings. Winter in July, here I come!
Listening To: LCD Soundsystem, 45:33
Next Up: Fly to Auckland, New Zealand on July 1st