13 October 2010

My Fraser Experience

K'gari - Paradise is what the Butchulla People call Fraser Island, the biggest sand island in the world and one of the World Heritage listed places in Queensland.
It has been a while since I wrote my last blog and well, it's been a while since I visited Australia. Now I am back and the first place I went to on my day off was Fraser Island! Recently I was asked by a German newspaper which is my favourite place in Queensland and I had a really hard time deciding, but of all the places I experienced, I choose Fraser as one of my Top 2 (Lawn Hill National Park is the other).

So I was back but with more time on my hands. I took the two day trip with Fraser Experience Tours, the company recognises the Butchulla People as the traditional owners of Kgari (Fraser Island) and that by itself shows you with how much respect they treat the island and its habitat. There was no rushing, even though we got to see and experience so much,but that's what it's all about to experience Fraser and not just having been there. They don't do bus loads of people either, it's always a nice little group. AND best of all, they organise everything for you in those two days: water, breakfast, tea, lunch and dinner plus the accomodation (no tents!) and not to forget the transfer with the ferry.

After everyone was picked up from their hotel and hostels in Hervey Bay, we headed off to Rainbow Beach to catch the Manta Ray Car Ferry. It was a short and impressive ride over the ocean. The waves were hitting Fraser Island pretty hard, but our experienced driver and tour guide Neill stayed cool and manuvered the bus safely onto the sandy beach. First stop was Dilli Village our camp, we were housed in cabins, which can be so much better then tents especially when it gets windy. After some invigorating tea and biscuits we headed off to drive along the 75 Mile Beach. It's a highway, let me tell you: there are road signs, traffic rules and speed control. It makes you feel quite adventurous! Eli Creek was our swim for the day. When we stopped there, we found a seaturtle washed onto the banks of the sweet water creek. Neill took charge and showed us how to save a turtle. She was very exhausted but as soon as we brought her closer to the ocean she started paddling and gasping for the salty water. That totally made my day, yet there was more to come! We rode down Eli Creek, the current just takes you back to the beach.

Afterwards we hiked up the large rocky headland of Indian Head. The name was given by Captain Cook, when he saw "Indians", which in those times they called all natives, assembling on the rock. It is an historical and spiritual site of significance to the Aborigines. It is also a great vantage point for taking tons of pictures of 75 Mile Beach and the great sand dunes extending north, viewing sharks, turtles, dolphins and rays. If you are lucky you might even see a whale, but for sure you will see something! I really loved the fact that we could take our time.

Next we visited the coloured sands and marveled at the different shades of red, yellow and gold the sand showed glistening in the sunlight. Last stop was the Maheno Shipwreck. It used to be a luxury liner before and after that she served her time in the military. Now she sits at the beach deteriorating and changing her appearance constantly. I don't have to tell you that the shipwreck is very popular for photographers. At the end of the day we had an Aussie BBQ, played some games and just chatted away. The Dilli Village also had a 'natural swimming hole' for everybody who wanted to go for another swim.

I woke up the next morning refreshed. It had rained and everything smelled beautifully, the sun came out and a Dingo puppy had made it underneath the fence to check out our campsite. Of course, they are just adorable, but "No, you can not pet the puppy" it is a wild animal! We packed up and drove through the bush. Lake McKenzie was our first destination. Fraser Island has over 40 lakes, including half the world’s perched lakes, each unique with clear waters due to a filtering effect of the sand resulting in white beaches. Perched lakes develop when a saucer-shaped "hard pan" of organic debris, sand and peat forms in a depression between dunes. Water collects, slowly filtering to the watertable below. One of the most stunning perched lakes is Lake McKenzie. For two hours we could frolic on Main Beach, find a little spot of one's own or walk along the shore till you find secluded Second Beach. To boost our energy Neill had set up a beautiful lunch with wraps and a variety of ingredients. In the picnic area there was also a goana. We tried to take pictures of him without stressing or cornering him too much. But he was very happy baking in the sun.

Our last adventure of the trip would take us to Central Station, once the logging station on Fraser Island and through Pile Valley rainforest. Towering satinay and brush box trees, ancient ferns, palms and vines are supported by sand dunes and form this very dense rainforest. We took a walk along the crystal clear Wanggoolba Creek through this ancient rainforest that due to its 300 million old species of fern was the backdrop to BBC's "When Dinosaurs Walked the Earth". Before we headed back to Rainbow Beach taking the inland road we had a last tea & biscuits. It was a great group of people and the experience we all had of Fraser Island was a true one!

07 July 2009

Noosa – Go for a ride!

Noosa is a beautiful picturesque town on the Sunshine Coast. It is not only on the way to Fraser Island but worth a visit in itself. Before I arrived on Hamilton Island for the final round of „The Best Job in the World“ I already had visited Noosa and was hoping to return one day. Famous for its surf and rich weekend houses, I found some of the best food on the coast there. Here I have to confess, I am a little bit of a food tourist – so I might not be completely objective, when I say Noosa is beautiful, as the food definitely put me in a very happy mood. I can only recommend Gusto Restaurant by the river and Sails at the corner of Hastings St & Park Rd. Sails is directly by the beach and offers as good a view as delicious seafood.

Even though we did not go surfing, we went for a ride anyways: Horseback Riding on the beach with EQUATHON. Alex Watson, triple Olympian is a world class rider and made Equathon a world class horse riding experience. Those are no tired, old and slaving horses! They are healthy and beautiful Australian Stock Horses. Watson says: „Our aim is to bring people and horses together in rewarding relationships.“ ...Kermit and me hit it off from the start. In the beginning he was a little stubborn, but like most men, once you establish the hierarchy, adapting fast. - Just kidding! There are numerous tracks on Noosa North Shore, we passed through gum tree forests, saw kangaroos and finally had great fun cantering along the beach. After that we were definitely in love!
Together, Magali, George and me shared a holiday apartment at the Breakfree French Quarter Resort. Not far from Main Beach and the boardwalk, as well as close to the river canals and bus station, the resort is very close to everything that Noosa has to offer. Noosa's National Park with its five heads along the North Shore was just around the corner as well and I was happy to return to the place where I had seen my first wildlife koala. See my blog about Noosa on 01/05.

25 June 2009

Tangled up in Tangalooma

When I was so lucky to be chosen one of the 16 candidates to come to Queensland, people always asked me what was I looking forward to the most. My answer was always the same: the underwater world and swimming with a dolphin. During my stay on Moreton Island at the Tangalooma Island Resort I actually got to feed a wildlife dolphin! How great is that! They come up to the shores every evening by themselves and are so trusting it blew my mind! But the resort also has other adventures in store and the two days we spent there was not enough time to experience them all, so upfront I have to confess „I will be back“.

Day 1
Tangalooma Island Resort is just an 1.5 hours ride away from Brisbane City Centre and getting there is where your holidays starts. Magali and me left with the ferry at 10am from Holt Street, Pinkenba and our captain actually gave a little guided tour as the boat made its way through the harbour. As soon as we arrived we were greeted by pelicans, or maybe they were just hoping on some scraps and by a welcoming staff member, Maurie. He told us everything we needed to know about the resort and the activities, so we could plan ahead or make no plans – we did some of both.

First things first, we took in the vibe: palm trees, beautiful cafes and restaurants along the beach, colourful birds, sand, sun and water – this really felt like an island! We were up for some adventures so we booked in the Quad Bike Tour for this afternoon. That would give us enough time to get sorted out in our rooms, meaning throwing everything in there before heading to the beach. ;-)

Before we went into the dunes with our Quad Bikes we had a little introduction. It is all really basic and quite easy to learn for everybody, they even had mini quads for kids. Still Magali and me were happy to get promoted to the boys' team, so we could go a little wilder and push the limits. It was so great fun! By myself I probably would not have gone so far, but you have the guide infront of you and you just do what she does getting a kick out of it! Happy and thrilled we got off our quad bikes at the end of the tour and I could have easily gone for another, but I also wanted to see the kookaburra feeding. They are so funny birds! The kookaburras at the resort are also wildlife birds that come every afternoon, sometimes more sometimes less of them, to the feeding. It is great to see these birds in a close-up with their beautiful colouring and their laughter.

The day ended filled with more highlights. There was the dolphin feeding in the evening. At the Marine Education and Conservation Centre you learn more about dolphins, dugongs and the ocean's eco-system. At Tangalooma they are really concerned about educating, treating animals with care and respecting wildlife. It was fascinating to see how close the dolphins came to the shore, played with each other and their different characters and traits. The calf, for example, is really cheeky and its mother Shadow very gentle. After we fed fish to the dolphins, we were ready for some fish ourselves. And we got lucky: freshly caught and simmered to perfection!

Day 2
I started the day with some pampering at the Tangalooma Beauty Therapy and hanging out by the beach. Around noon, in time for the tide we went snorkeling by the wrecks. We were fully equipped and the service was great at the 'Tangalooma Dive In Sports'. In the 1960s the government sunk 12 ships along the shores of Moreton Island. Their wrecks now protect from the strong currents and offer a haven to corals and thus hundreds of fish as well. This is were we went snorkeling. My favourite is the parrot fish who is just nibbling away on the corals and keeps on spitting half of it back out, he makes a big mess and the sound just nibbles at your ears just the same.

In the early afternoon we went off with the Desert Safari Tour into the dunes. Moreton Island is one of the world's largest sand islands, the highest point of the island is Mount Tempest with its 280 metres it is the the highest coastal sandhill in the world. There are hills and hills of almost white sand and us surfing them. Well, not really! - The dunes were more surfing us. Going up there was just exhausting, but going down so worth it. But there is really nothing much you can do, you just have to lie on your belly and go where it takes you and especially how fast it will take you. Speed! That is the kick.

The rest of the day we spent by the beach, played badminton, one of the many land activities at the resort, watched the sunset – most beautiful sunset that is – and having another evening of great food, drinks and shooting pool at the bar.

All in all, even though it was great, we had a lot of adventures and also relaxing experiences, there is one problem: I really do have to come back. There is so much to see and do, we just did not have enough time for all of it, like: the Whale Watching Cruise, the Dugong Eco Cruise, Kayaking by the Wrecks, especially Dusk Kayaking with beer and prawns, the helicopter ride and parasailing. As I am staying in Brisbane for a little longer, it will be easy to just pop in for a day or two! :-)

16 June 2009

Magic in the Woods

No, I am not talking about wizards and witches, whereas it was so idyllic and surreal that I would not have been surprised if Galadriel and the seven dwarfs from snowwhite would have appeared.
I am talking about O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat situated in the heart of Lamington National Park. They have the best walking track map I have seen so far, the numerous walks are broken down concerning difficulty, accessibility, distance and time.

There are several walks and activities offered by O'Reilly's itself if you want to take a guided tour through the forest. My favourite are the Glowworm Walk and the Spotlight Walk, both are in the evening at dark. I really looked forward to seeing the glowworms and I did not get disappointed. It looked like hundreds of tiny christmas lights all over the forest, just miraculous. On the spotlight walk you have to be lucky, a guide will lead the group through the forest and around the resort to spot nightlife in the wild. You never know what you will see and you are part of the experience looking and listening to what is around you. I always wanted to walk the woods at night, but obviously I am too much of a wuz to do so by myself.

The Morning Bird Walk is a great way to start your day at O'Reilly's. Most animals come out in the morning, the birds are singing their greetings to the day and I even got to see kangaroos. The famous Tree Top Walk gave me a bird's eye view as I walked through the forest's canopy and to also fly like a bird I went on the Flying Fox which takes you soaring 25 metres above the ground!

After a long day of walking through and flying over the forest O'Reilly's Lost World Spa is the best place to relax and get spoiled while watching the sun set into lush and wild scenery. Their swimming pool seems to drop into the rainforest! What a view, pause and take it in! That's what O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat is about! My stay was short though, I definitely want to come back and do more walking tracks and a rough bush track as well, but not without getting pampered afterwards! I am bad, you guys, this is the second time I have been to a spa and I'm already spoiled ;-) .

If you want to hire a car in Brisbane or the Sunshine Coast, go to www.alphacarhire.com.au , they have a great prices, pick-up and drop-off service and reliable cars. Thank you Alpha car hire for giving me the opportunity to enjoy this trip without having to worry!

04 June 2009

Riding water and earth on Stradbroke Island

Hailey, the Australian candidate invited Magali (candidate from the Netherlands), George (candidate from Ireland) and me along with some of her friends to her parents caravan on Stradbroke Island. It is just a 30 minute ride with the ferry from Brisbane. Straddie, as the Aussies call it, has beautiful beaches, a great surf and a beautiful creek walk. A vast array of different bird species call it their home, you can see dolphins at sunset and whales passing the island on their journey. The native name for Straddie is Minjerribah, even though Captain Henry John Rous was officially the first European to have set foot on the island in 1827, there is a legend that a couple of survivors of a Spanish or Portuguese shipwreck have been the first ones. There were records about a contact in the Aboriginal oral tradition and the shipwreck, known as the Stradbroke Island Galleon, is supposed to be hidden in the 18 Mile Swamp. What a great story! I guess, I should come with some of my historian collegues and do some digging!

After a day of chilling at the beach and watching other people enjoying the surf Magali and me were up for some action as well. We rented ourselves some boards at Straddie Adventures and signed up for the sand boarding later that afternoon. When I had my surfing lesson in Noosa I got pretty spoiled with catching every wave and being able to stand up on the board from the start. This time it turned out to be much more difficult with a shorter board and no teacher to tell you when to start paddling. I still had a great time though!

In the afternoon we went to the sand dunes with Mark from Straddie Adventures. We had a lot of fun! Of course you end up covered with sand like a schnitzel after speeding down the dunes, but what an experience! The weirdest thing though is to just let go and let the board take you down, because as soon as you move you land in the sand, but no worries, it is a soft landing.

03 June 2009

Reunion and Goodbyes in Sydney

As one of the secret capitals ;-) of Australia Sydney is definitely worth a visit, especially if some great friends are waiting there for you! I met with James, my Outback-mate, Magali, Anjaan and his wife Amu in Sydney. We had some great times there, going out for some drinks, partying at a Backpacker place, as I was not wearing proper shoes for a fancy place (having been a tourist all day walking in sneakers), and watching fireworks at Darling Habour. Of course, after we experienced so much together, like seeing right into Spock's humongous eye at the IMAX Sydney, the world's largest screening system (scary!!!), it was even harder to part. But hopefully we will all meet again! At Ben's house warming party?

But one thing is for sure: in Sydney I really noticed that it is winter in Australia at the moment, I totally forgot about that in the Sunshine State of Queensland!

Some Impressions of Sydney:

Beautiful at Night: The Opera House and Harbour Bridge

Another Cool Bloke

Take the ferry to Manly to:

...get the best view of Sydney

...meet Bill and get a language lesson for free by the beach

...get The Heads shown to you by a local

...hear some Arameic when you are lucky enough to meet Paul

21 May 2009

Story Bridge Hotel in Brisbane

Yesterday I went out for dinner with some friends of mine. Several people told me The Story Bridge Hotel would be a great venue to spend a night out, whether you want to go for a drink at its Shelter Bar or for something to eat at the Deery's Restaurant. It really has something to offer for everyone, you can also sit by a cole heated oven and enjoy a laid-back dinner with some beers at The Outback Bar & Grill of the hotel.

The Hotel is situated under The Story Bridge and is actually much older than the bridge. It opened its doors in 1886 and received today's name in 1940 at the actual opening of The Story Bridge.

We had some beautiful steaks and oysters. They have a huge variety of domestic and imported wine and the waiters really know how to chose the right wine for you according to your meal and taste.

After dinner we went over to the Shelter Bar for a couple of drinks and it is quite fascinating to be sitting right next to these huge pillars inside the bar which are holding up the bridge. All of us had a great time out. It is always fun when you are with the right people, but it does add when you are in really special place.