The East Coast: Townsville, Magnetic Island, Mission Beach and Rafting

Less complaining, more enjoying. Now that the Greyhound disaster is done, I can get back to enjoying this trip of mine, right?

Well, mostly.

I’m still suffering from it. The money I lost from not doing the Whitsundays tour and then having to pay for extra accommodation during that time sucks but I’m working on it.

Townsville at night, from Castle Hill

Townsville at night, from Castle Hill

Anyway, realising there isn’t that much to do in Airlie Beach beyond the Whitsundays and drinking, I decided to change my trip and leave a day early. Originally, I was only going to be in Townsville for a little while, either side of my Magnetic Island trip. Instead I decided to spend a night there and see it.

There’s not much there, but I didn’t have time to research it. I found a decent hostel and decided to walk up to Castle Hill for sunset. Only, I was a little late and before I was even half way up it was dark. That didn’t stop me – but it did make me realise how much fitness I’d lost! When I’m settled somewhere, I’ll work on that again.

The views were great, and probably would have been better in daylight but time was going to stop me doing that again. I sat and watched the lights from all around the viewpoint before walking down in even less light.

What did we do before our phones had torches?! Then again, I wasn’t the only one doing it, so maybe it wasn’t that foolish a decision. You decide.

Koala Kuddle!

Koala Kuddle!

The next day, it was off to Magnetic Island for two nights. I was staying in the YHA, which also includes a Koala Sanctuary. I did the tour that day with a friend (who I swear is following me up from Byron Bay!) and I held lizards, birds and got a koala cuddle!

My word, they are the most cuddly things ever, for the few seconds I was allowed to hold it. It didn’t want to let me go, either!

We then did the Fort Walk where we got some amazing views of the island and saw a couple of wild koalas on the way back. That made it a good day.

The next day, I walked around the island a little, went to a few beaches and lookout points, like Arthur Beach and Alma Bay, with a big hill walk in between. I know I ask this a lot, but WHY do I walk up big hills in the heat? I feel like I’m trying to kill myself.

Also, take a lot of water. I keep forgetting that.

It’s worth noting that this hostel had the comfiest beds I’ve been in since leaving home back in January. I slept like a baby both nights. Other hostels; take note!

Then it was another bus to Mission Beach. I didn’t see any of it, except the Woolworths and my hostel, as it was dark by the time I arrived and I had to be up the next morning for Xtreme Rafting.

Or so I thought.

Unfortunately, the Xtreme Rafting didn’t have enough people so I was offered the normal full day rafting instead. I was a little disappointed but they were still going to take me to Cairns at the end of the day, which was easier than going back to the hostel, getting a bus into town and another bus to Cairns.

We had a great day for it. The sun was blazing down on us, and the river was full, with the power station letting out as much as possible. That meant a good day, according to our guide.

White water rafting in Tully

White water rafting in Tully

I got put at the front with the only other guy on the boat. It was tricky at times keeping in synch with each other but we got there. Every time we were told we could jump in the water, I did. I enjoyed floating down through the current. It also helped stave off the cold water somewhat, but the heat was so strong that we dried off pretty quickly. There were squeals as cold water hit us. I was not immune.

It was a little stop and start at times, as we had to make sure every boat got through each section safely. I ended up being the one to hold us in place more than a couple of times. Did I mention how unfit I am now? It was made even clearer here.

We were the only boat not to have anyone fall in – unintentionally, I should add. Every other boat had rafters, or even an instructor, fall in at some point. There’s a point where we all fell in after a short drop, but that was planned. A very good way to wake up. The lunch was also great!

Then it was off to Cairns, where I slept soundly, with a fair few things to do over the next week – including a skydive!

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The East Coast: Agnes Water, Airlie Beach and the Greyhound Disaster

So, the Greyhound from Noosa to Agnes Water takes around 9 hours, with two 30-minute breaks. Thankfully, it was one of the nice buses I’ve been on with leather eats and plenty of legroom. That really helped.

Compared to some shorter bus rides (ie, the idiot who kept jumping in his seat for two hours), it was pleasant. I read a bit, had a snooze and just watched the world go by. Even now, I can’t, for the life of me, figure out why this trip wasn’t done as an overnight – or my next one – which would have saved a little on hostel fees but such is life.

The beach at Agnes Water

The beach at Agnes Water

Agnes Water is one of my last chances to surf, really – on this trip. After ruining my body, legs and hand at Spot X, I was ready to get back on the board. Unfortunately, adulting got in the way. I won’t go into details but I lost the morning talking to dumbass companies who have managed to screw things up and affected my finances so I decided to not surf, in case that money doesn’t come back to me.

I had a wander around the town, which is REALLY small, for a couple of hours then returned to the hostel to chill by the pool. I did want to go to 1770 but in the end bike hire got in the way and I didn’t fancy the 3-hour roundtrip walk in this heat.

Another time.

Then it’s a 9-and-a-half-hour Greyhound to Airlie Beach. Agnes was a nice rest spot, because an 18-hour coach journey really did not appeal AT ALL!

It felt like way too soon that I was back at the coach stop for the next long-haul, and the last one of this trip, thankfully. There were seven of us waiting and no coach.

Now, I’m telling you this because, as amazing as this trip has been, and still is, there are problems. This is one of the biggest so far. About fifteen minutes after the coach was due, I got a text message saying there would be a two-hour delay. Okay, not great but we went to a café for food.

After those two hours we returned and still no coach. This is when we started calling for more information, only to be told they’d be in touch when they knew more, as they were waiting for an engineer and that, in the end, took four hours! Of course, there wasn’t a mechanic closer, typically.

Finally, after five hours of waiting around, the coach was cancelled. We were all annoyed, understandably, as the lack of information then made it impossible to book any other transport for that day.

I was probably in the worst position because I had a Whitsundays tour the next morning, which I was now going to miss. Say goodbye to $500, Dave, because that trip’s gone. It also meant paying for another night in Agnes Water, which is nice but since the insects like me, it wasn’t the greatest thing for me.

The guys at Southern Cross were great, I got a bit of a discount and put back in the same room, where no one else was staying that night. My first night of actual privacy since January! A small consolation, at least.

The next day we got on the coach, and began the long journey to Airlie Beach, which is a nice place. It’s bigger than Agnes Water but there’s still not much to do, and without the Whitsundays tour, I’m a feeling a bit lost.

Airlie Beach Lagoon

Airlie Beach Lagoon

There are some really nice coastal walks to spend a bit of time doing but since there’s no real or great beach here, they’ve made an artificial one, on a similar idea to Brisbane but freshwater. It’s called the Airlie Lagoon and I’ll be there everyday till I leave.

The tiredness and stress over the last couple of days have caught up to me. The Base/Nomads hostel have been great, moving my bookings around so that I didn’t miss out on one of the two nights booked, which is a big help but now I’m working out what to do next.

A bit of downtime to recharge, I think, and I may head to Townsville a day earlier – not for fear of breakdowns, as these things happen, but just to put this stint behind me.

It’s a massive shame because this tour was one of the highlights of the trip. I was offered the chance to do a day trip, or a two-day/one-night trip but given what I’ve paid for already, that feels like a waste. Now I’m going to fight to get my money back and come back in the future to do it properly. It’s a reason to do some of the east coast again, at least!

Now, let’s be clear. This hasn’t been the best update, and maybe it’s a little bit of a moan (sorry) but it’s worth documenting and, like I said earlier, it doesn’t get rid of all the amazing things I’ve seen and done since being in Australia or this trip.

Let’s see what happens next, eh?

The East Coast: Brisbane, Noosa and Fraser Island

From Surfer’s Paradise in the Gold Coast to Brisbane, a city of split views – at least, that’s what I’ve heard so far.

About half the people said Brisbane is great and the other half said it was boring, with only a few indifferent opinions in between. Given how much people were raving about Surfer’s, I had a feeling I might get on a little better here and so it turned out!

Brisbane letters

Brisbane letters

Less than a two-hour bus ride later, during which I bumped into a friend from Spot X and we had a good catch up, I arrived in the next city. For those keeping track, I’ve now been to Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and Brisbane, so that’s four.

Brisbane is a smaller city than the others but the advantage of that is things are closer together, and since I only had two days before moving on again, that helped me get through a few things.

I took some time to explore the CBD, finding an awesome bookshop called The Archive, which mainly had old books, so if you’re looking for some older covers this is the place to go. The botanical gardens were really nice and after walking around them along the river, you can cross a bridge to Southbank, where there’s another park, an arts centre and an artificial beach!

Brisbane's artificial beach

Brisbane’s artificial beach

Yes, you read it right. Brisbane doesn’t have a beach, and while you can certainly reach the coast in some way, it takes time. This beach sits next to the river and is sand based with salt water. There are pools on either side too so if sunbathing next to the water isn’t for you, there’s another option.

I want to spend more time here as there are some really nice bars and restaurants around, in Southbank and up in Fortitude Valley, just finding time for it all was impossible on this trip.

Almost too soon it was time to head to Noosa, which is where one of my big trips started. I got there in the afternoon, checked out the beach and before I knew it, was heading to bed for a 6am wake-up so I could get myself on the way to Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world!

Lake McKenzie on Fraser Island

Lake McKenzie on Fraser Island

This was a group of four 4×4 cars, with those with a valid license able to drive at some point (damn my past self for not getting a license!) but there are no roads on the island, you’re driving on sand the entire time. As a passenger, I was in the front car with the tour leader who, having done these tours for 14 years, knew a good deal about the island, its history and locations.

There were a number of main spots we had on the list to visit; Lake McKenzie with its clear water and ridiculously fine sand (the kind you can exfoliate your skin with and brush your teeth with – true story) but while that was incredible, it was also the cloudiest day so not as warm as usual. I know, I know, I shouldn’t really complain but just imagine how much nicer it would have looked with the sun. Regardless, I didn’t want to get out of the water.

The night, well, both nights, actually, we ended up on the beach around midnight. With no light pollution, you could see the stars and, my God, its one of the best views I’ve ever seen. I can’t even describe to you how stunning it looked, both nights. It made me wish I had a proper camera with the right lens to even attempt a photo of it. It remains in my mind though, don’t worry.

The Champagne Pools on Fraser Island

The Champagne Pools on Fraser Island

We cleared our hangovers in Eli Creek the next morning, with some cool and refreshing water before pressing on to a shipwreck and later the Champagne Pools, which do not have champagne but when the waves crash over the rocks, it creates the bubble effect seen in your champers glass. You are swimming with fish too!

A little history lesson of Indian Head on our way back and that was us done for the day.

The final day took us to Lake Wabby, which was a 45-minute trek from the beach, where we had to park, and back again after our hour there. The fish in this lake eat the dead skin off your body, much like those beauty treatments you see, or saw, dotted around shopping centres. Very weird to feel. As gorgeous as it is, it won’t exist in the future as a sand dune is slowly filling the lake. It used to be 16.5 meters at it’s deepest but currently sits at 9.5m. That’s scary to think.

Being a sand island, you wouldn’t expect there to be a rainforest on the island, would you? Would you?! Well, there is! It’s to do with the underground freshwater streams that keep it going. It was an experiment that took hold. That’s just one of the extra bits we got told by our tour guide/driver.

Sunset in Noosa

Sunset in Noosa

Then it was back to Noosa, where, I promise you, we all slept soundly. I was in a tipi for the two nights on Fraser Island, which was fine enough with a mattress and blanket but a real bed was so much better.

Yes, even a hostel bed!

Two days in Noosa followed, recuperating and enjoying the beach, a sunset over it, and a coastal walk to the Fairy Pools (much like the Champagne Pools) and Hell’s Gate.

Next up; a 9-hour coach journey to Agnes Water. Great.

The East Coast: Chilling at Byron Bay and Surfer’s Paradise

From Spot X to Byron Bay was only a four-hour Greyhound journey – simple compared to the last two, right?

Wrong.

My bus was at 3am! The 7am was full, ugh. That being said, it got me into Byron just before 7am and that gave me a full day to explore (after dropping my gear off at the hostel again). Although, the driver kept talking into the microphone throughout. Not cool, dude. Not at that time!

Now, Byron Bay isn’t huge but it’s full of independent and boutique shops and restaurants so plenty to sink your teeth into. It’s also very chilled out, more so than other place I’ve seen so far but everyone still goes about their day. It’s a calming chilled out and I felt really happy and at home there, despite it being smaller than every other place I’ve lived – or considered living.

I also almost got rained on properly for the first time (outside of the F1). A ten-minute downpour that, thankfully, I was already undercover for on the way to the hostel. It would have soaked me to the core in less than thirty seconds but then it dried up in less than an hour. Madness.

Killen Falls

Killen Falls

That night, I met a local, who I befriended in Doncaster many years ago, and she drove me to the Lighthouse for the latter end of sunset. It was amazing. Then we hit a few bars and had a good catch up before I totally crashed out.

The next day was even better. I was taken on a drive around the area, having a look at some of the villages around Byron Bay and stopping at a number of spots and lookouts for pictures. The best spot was Killen Falls, a waterfall after a dam that is part of the water supply for Byron. It was a sheltered cove where people would come and relax in the shade and swim and I’m so jealous I didn’t have my swimming gear – I could have spent all day there!

Then again, I wouldn’t have seen anything else if I had!

Sunset in Byron Bay

Sunset in Byron Bay

We rounded the day off with more drinks and food in the local RSL club (t’s been so long since I had a roast dinner so it was definitely needed) while watching the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony, a timely reminder that I’d be heading up to the Gold Coast shortly.

My final day was spent with friends from Spot X who’d finally arrived in Byron. We took the coastal walk to the lighthouse in the afternoon, arriving with plenty of time before sunset, and seeing the whole thing blew my mind. The colours, the sound of the ocean, the pure peacefulness of it all. I definitely prefer sunsets to sunrises but that might be because I’m already awake at that time!

Surfer's Paradise

Surfer’s Paradise

Then it was a short Greyhound to Surfer’s Paradise in the Gold Coast. There’s a lot going on here because of the Commonwealth Games, so there are stages everywhere with music and performances, but it’s also a party area of the city.

Great for groups but less so for me, since I prefer pubs to clubs! I spent most days exploring and chilling on the beach (as well as catching up with some work and writing!), using this time to recharge before next week, which is going to be pretty full on.

I did see another friend here, too (met in Doncaster but a local here). We had food and drinks one night and just a really good catch up, which I’m sure won’t be the last one!

While it’s a nice little holiday destination, there are probably other parts of the Gold Coast better suited for me and in the future, I’ll come back to find them, but taking some time to chill was definitely needed. Also, my body has almost fully recovered by now so when I’m next able to get back on the surfboard, I will!

The East Coast: Sydney and Surfing

This is something I’ve been looking forward to since booking it on day one of my Australian adventure. I spent a lot of money sorting it and I have a lot of things planned, which I won’t spoil here – you’ll just have to wait and see.

Now, you’ll know I don’t drive so I’m relying on public transport. There were a few options but I chose a hop-on-hop-off Greyhound pass. I booked the journeys in advance but pay just once. It makes sense. The first trip was from Melbourne to Sydney – a twelve-hour trip that I booked as an overnight journey. This means no accommodation costs for that night but that I wasn’t likely to get much sleep, and so it proved.

Obligatory selfie with Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge

Obligatory selfie with Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge

I was sat next to a guy (who had the window seat) who kept falling asleep on me and leaning into me. I’m not ashamed to say he got a few elbows and nudges over the trip, which woke him up grumbling but I’m not a damned pillow!

It was a relief to get to Sydney. An hour’s sleep, maybe two at most. Couldn’t check in for a few more hours but stored my gear. Went north and found the Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House, walked over the former (then back) and around the latter, taking plenty of pictures. The botanical gardens were right besides the opera house and I’d been told there was a great spot to get a picture of both and to the obligatory selfie. I did that and then explored the gardens.

Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach

I actually bumped into some friends from Melbourne back at the hostel, leading to impromptu drinks, which was a great way to round the day. The following day was more drinks with another friend who I met in Melbourne but lived in Sydney followed by a pub quiz where I got a free pizza for coming in last – but remember I was playing alone!

Of course, I had to go to Bondi Beach and it was beautiful. I took a coastal walk south to find Clovelly Beach, which was also beautiful and ran into more people along the way. It really is a small world, huh? The walk took longer than it should, thanks to my excessive photo-taking habits.

Checkout was the next day and I was very boring and responsible by doing work for most of it, as I had another overnight Greyhound trip to surf camp!

I can surf!

I can surf!

This was at Arrawarra Beach, near Woolgoolga, at a place called Spot X. We slept in converted shipping containers and you know what? They were actually quite comfortable!

I surfed every morning and afternoon (but the morning lessons could be as early as 8am! Ugh) but it wasn’t until the second day I was able to stand up at all, thanks to some great instructors who took the time with everyone to make sure they were doing the right things. After that, it’s just practise. By the end of my three days, I could stand up most of the time, speed up and slow down as well as turn…usually.

It was really fun but I ruined myself. Covered in bruises from head to toe, board rash on my legs and rubbed away half the skin on both hands. That meant there’d be no surfing for me for a while until I healed. A bit annoying since there were some good spots coming up but better to play it safe.

Sunrise at Spot X

Sunrise at Spot X

One thing I did do at Spot X was get up one morning for the sunrise at the ungodly hour of 5am (so I had time to fully wake up). Trudging to the beach wasn’t fun and, typically, the only clouds in the sky were over the horizon. A bit annoying but I waited anyway.

And I’m glad I did. Seeing the sun rise over the clouds and hit the beach was incredible. Such a beautiful way to start the day with gorgeous colours and tones hitting the water and sand. I wasn’t alone, plenty of people made it down, ad when you combine that view with the soothing sound of the ocean…yeah, I can see why people do this so much.

Not saying I’ll do it all the time, but every so often? Yeah.

A lot of the friends I made at surf camp are doing the same trip as me, but slower. I was one of the first of ‘our group’ to leave and head to Byron Bay.