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Surf’s up, Dude!

Soaking up the rays on the Sunshine Coast

After camping on amazing Fraser Island for 3 days, we were ready for some creature comforts – you know, fancy stuff like hot showers and a bed. We got to Noosa after a 2 hr. drive South along the coast. It is rather difficult to arrive to a new destination in the dark (especially when the internal light in your Astra does not work- perhaps this was damage we had done as a result of driving through the flood waters in North Queensland). Marin, ever the industrious McGyver, has taken to handling this challenge by squatting outside the car and holding the miniscule Lonely Planet map in the headlights. But, she never quite got the hag of doing this in the pouring rain.

After literally driving around in circles (there are 114 roundabouts in Noosa!!) through the various neighborhoods - Noosa Heads, Sunshine Beach, Noosaville- consulting the map in the headlights several times, asking 3 different people for directions and having 2 arguments, we finally landed at our Flashpacker accommodation.

For those of you who are not familiar with the ins and outs of the youth hostel circuit, Flashpacker accommodation is one step up from backpacker accommodation. It usually means you pay about $10 more, and for this tax, you’re guaranteed luxuries like clean sheets. If you are lucky, you might have a pool or a TV in your room. Our Noosa Digs did not disappoint: king sized bed, perfect private shower, flat screen tv, private little terrace off the room, pool, bbq). Perfect for a post-camping crash.

After a good night’s rest, we spent a wonderful day frolicking on the gorgeous beaches of Noosa. We went to the Main Beach, which was filled with surfers and sunbathers. Nikki sunbathed away (shocking!) while Marin rode the waves on a boogie board she loaned from the hostel. By Australian standards, Noosa is very posh – the place to “see and be seen” according to our guide book. We were amazed that even by these standards, we enjoyed a gorgeous day on a pristine beach – no payment to enter, park or do anything else. Free luxury. Gotta love Australia.
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After Main Beach we found a great beach bar and enjoyed some oysters and beers. It was nice to just sit and chill for a bit and catch our breath after all of the driving we had done.

We wandered over to Noosa Heads, one of the many Australian National Parks and took a lovely sunset stroll through the Eucalypt-covered coastline. On our walk we spotted some more surfers- they are everywhere in Noosa- and a Koala! The wildlife spotting made Marin really happy! We found a gorgeous spot to sit and take it all in. Take a look:

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After one more sleep, and some delicious steaks BBQ’d in the pouring rain, we hit the road and headed toward Byron Bay. We broke up the 4-hour drive with a stop at Steve Irwin’s famous Australia Zoo.
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For those of you who are not loyal Steve Irwin fans, you may not be aware that the Crocodile Hunter tragically died in an accident involving a Sting Ray a few years back. Sadly, he left behind his wife and children. The Australia Zoo has become his legacy. The Zoo itself is quite commercial (picture Disney with lots of crocs) and some of the animals were definitely depressed (Nikki has some strong feelings of dislike toward caged animals) but we did learn some amazing things about Koalas and crocodiles. Did you know that a Koala is not actually a bear? And it has two thumbs. It turns out that the Koalas are endangered and protected in the zoo- this was a bit reassuring to us. And we even got to touch a Koala – it is so super soft. his is when Nikki decided that the Koala is her favorite of the Marsupials. Marin, however, is still loyal to the Kangas!
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We also went to a live Croc show where this crazy dude below put his life at risk for us, much to our enjoyment. Crocs use their tails to jump 6 feet in the air!
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And there were also these cool gigantic prehistoric tortoises:
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We arrived in Byron (in the dark of course, crossing back and forth through town, over railroad tracks and in search of a road on our map that did not exist in real life) to a lovely Bed & Breakfast. We were greeted at the door by Marty, our warm and wonderful host -- a theatrical Kiwi who’s travelled and lived all over the world. Some details about Marty to help you picture him: makes sweeping hand gestures when talking about the weather, walks around town and in the house with a bird on his shoulder, raises tree frogs on the porch, drinks soy milk, wears yoga pants and was so excited to tell us that our soap was some kind of organic almond mixture, not those “dreadful little bars”. This is all very normal for Byron – it’s the bourgeois hippie capital of OZ, not unlike Park Slope, except on the ocean. Nikki was psyched to return there after her visit 10 years ago to a 4-day jazz festival, when she came to “listen to music.”

Though we did not recreate Woodstock, we did have a wonderful time in Byron. Great bars, restaurants and live music to keep us jolly at night. Beautiful beaches for walks and swims, farmer’s markets, and dolphin and surfer sightings during the day. We went on one two mile run that turned into an 8 mile walk after we got lost, but we got a great tour of the Byron Cape – the easternmost point on the coast – as a result.
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What a great place to end our road trip! xoxo Marin & Nik

Posted by Marbert18 04:52 Archived in Australia Tagged beaches koala hiking crocodile noosa byron_bay australia_zoo tortoise flashpacker Comments (1)

Tasmania…more like Tas-rain-ia…

19°C, RAIN!!!

To begin with, Tassie is absolutely gorgeous!!! Like Africa meets the ocean.
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We had big dreams of circling the entire island state in just under a week. However, this did not happen, due to a) our complete and total exhaustion and b) the weather. As we cruised around Tassie in our Britz camper van, usually the only radio reception we got were various weather reports, all the same. For the week, our driving soundtrack was a young woman’s soothing accent reading out the temperature in each town each day… Swanswea…19…rain….Coles Bay…rain…19….St. Helens…rain, heavy at first….then light…19…. We stuck to cruising up and down the east coast Tassie beaches. While it wasn’t really beach weather, we saw some great stuff.

We had a great welcome to Australia on St Patrick’s Day. Hobart, the capital of the great Aussie state of Tasmania, and more specifically Salamanca Square, is a glorious place to drink Guinness, of which we did plenty. We knew we arrived at the right place when we saw this sign on our hostel door:
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And, at the Hobart Waterfront, we ate the freshest, creamiest, oysters you can imagine (seriously, there were still live barnacles attached to the shells and they were 4 bites thick each…at least). Look at Nikki’s expert preparations and the resultant supremely satisfied look on Marin’s face:
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We ate, drank, and were merry…very merry! We were proud that we were able to hang with the kids (the 18-20 something backpacker crowd) until approximately 10:30pm- we left just as things started to heat up in Irish Murphy’s. However, we were there long enough to enjoy the lovely Aussie one-man show, who performed a fantastic acoustic cover of “Livin’ on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi, as requested by a feisty co-ed in a green velvet top hat (and not much else). You haven’t lived until you have sung along to Bon Jovi along with a drunk Aussie chorus. Also, on our way home, we stopped to procure one of Nikki’s favorite Australian ice cream treats- The Magnum Ice Cream Bar…oh yeah!!! In other cheap dessert news, Marin has discovered Tim Tam’s, which are these amazing chocolate covered wafers. She will send you some if you are nice.

The next day, we picked up the Britz, our home on wheels for the week. Here she is in all her glory. Who knew so much was possible in a camper van?

Blogging in the Britz
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Britz side view
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Britz feast
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Beach side camping in the Britz
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Sammies in the Britz
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Britz beach nap
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Britz by campfire-light
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Wow…the Britz is amazing!

19…rain…rain…19

The highlight of the week for us was the two days we spent camping (for FREE) at the Bay of Fires, a beach on Tassie’s Northeast coast, which was voted the 2nd most beautiful beach in the world by Conde Nast in 2005. Picture seafoam green waters, with massive waves, crashing onto bright orange rocks (so bright they appeared as of they were spray-painted). The orange color is due to a moss, unique to Tassie, that grows on these rocks. Here are some views from/at/around our campsite:

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Also, the beaches were so deserted that we skinny-dipped mid-afternoon (no pictures of that- sorry folks!). This counted for our weekly shower.

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We also went on some beautiful day hikes at a few of Tasmania’s World National Parks. On one of these hikes, Nikki managed to pick up a leech, which Marin promptly removed by banging a rock against Nikki’s hip. Luckily, little to no blood was lost and many beautiful sights were seen. Take a look at picturesque Wineglass Bay and some of the sites along our many happy trails:

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At first, Marin was a bit discouraged because all of the wildlife we encountered in Tassie was in the form of roadkill (nothing like seeing your first kanga splatted all over the pavement ...and then another one 50 meters later…and so on…). Also, Marin was lucky enough to spot a large, poisonous, brown, potentially deadly spider on her own shoulder using her peripheral vision (at first she thought the light brown fuzz was a rodent coming by on the ground to beg for food…not a SPIDER ON HER SHOULDER!!!). There was screaming and jumping up and down that followed. Not to mention Marin’s impersonation of a person frozen after being bitten by a poisonous arachnid…all by the light of the lovely campfire that Marin skillfully built (this was NOT the campfire the following night that we decided we must build in the beach wind and rain…for which we sacrificed a box of matches, several cigarettes, and the Western Australia (who goes there anyway?) section of our Lonely Planet travel guide…but we got that flame, dammit!).

It turned out that some of the wildlife was indeed alive. We were lucky enough to encounter some Wallabies (mini-kangaroos) on our hikes:

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And we visited Nature World, a nature park where the animals roam free – we termed it a “free range zoo.” Marin fell in love with Kangaroos. Nikki fell in love with watching Marin with the roos. Here’s Marin communing with the marsupials (and their babies in their pouches), and Nikki getting knocked over by them (they are very tall and pushy about their food!):

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Also, there were Koalas:

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And Wombats:
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And the famed Tasmanian Devils (relatives of hyenas). Absolutely gross!!!

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These guys are the scavengers who eat animals that are only already dead. And eat their hair and bones and EVERYTHING. They have one of the strongest jaw pressures in the animal kingdom, so they can crunch right through bones. They are extremely competitive and howl loudly and bite at each other – they start competing in the womb! They got their names when the Europeans came to Australia and had never seen anything like them – they saw their red ears and heard their awful howling in the night and thought the devil spirits were after them.

Rain…19…19….Rain

Unfortunately, the weather in Tassie grew extremely rainy and windy in our last couple of days there (we are talking hurricane caliber here). The highlight of these days was homemade rice-a roni in the camper and scoring the Sopranos Season 6 DVD from the airport caravan park, where we huddled down and did laundry for two days… So much for those beautiful national parks ☺

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By the end of the week, we were ready to head to our next destination in the sun, Cairns! Tune in next time for our adventures snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef and our good times cheering on a goldfish race at the pub. Also plenty of floating in the pool at the most amazing hostel we have stayed at yet (not to mention the cute Welch bloke at reception, who made us blush each time he looked our way). And after that... pictures of rain, rain and more...RAIN! Xoxo Mar & Nik

Posted by Marbert18 20:12 Archived in Australia Tagged koala wombat tasmania hobart kangaroo campervan britz bay_of_fires natureworld tasmanian_devil Comments (1)

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