Letho's Blog

Archive for Juli, 2011

Airlie Beach

by on Jul.31, 2011, under The East Coast

July 27-31, 2011

From Bowen we rushed to Airlie Beach, and after arriving there we quickly checked in for our sailing trip that was about to start the following day. A few first looks around didn’t only make clear to us why Airlie Beach, despite being such a small community, was so incredibly full of tourists and backpackers lurking everywhere. The natural scenery was nothing short of gorgeous:

Airlie Beach's beautiful seascape

Airlie Beach's beautiful seascape

We headed off to make it to Mt Rooper in the Conway National Park still in daylight for a good overview over the Whitsunday islands region.

The next day we went on our sailing trip, after returning 3 days later we got to take a few closer looks.

There’s really not much more to say about Airlie Beach. It is primarily THE starting point to get to the Whitsundays. And good for hanging around at the beach or heavily going out every night. Yes, its surrounding area is beautiful, however we’re not too much into the aforementioned activities there was nothing more here for us.

We thus left to see Cedar Creek Falls.

We didn’t find the falls, obviously – they were completely dry at this time of the year. Anyway, we drove to our next CouchSurfing host who was living in a surrounding that might as well have been right in Southern Germany. The only thing really different were actually the palm trees and the howling dingoes even in full daylight! 🙂

Lots of animals on their farm as well, e.g. two more great dogs! I’m turning into a big dog fan. 😉 In the evening we had a campfire and Inka made a delicious meal (Reibekuchen – yum!) and desert for all 7 of us – the family of four, a Japanese exchange student and ourselves.

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The Whitsundays

by on Jul.30, 2011, under The East Coast

July 28, 2011

Starting with this day we finally achieved to do one of the things that had always been on our minds for the East Coast: a sailing trip to the Whitsunday Islands!

Two days before we had spent a few hours at the Mackay visitor information center (home of the Big Mango!) to gather all available information on cruises and trips, and of course prices and discounts. Considering all options we chose a 3 days and 2 nights trip on the „Ragamuffin II“ at last. It’s a so-called Maxi yacht, meaning it’s designed and built for racing, so we hoped to experience some serious sailing on it. Moreover, a single Scuba dive trip was included as well. And the time schedule allowed for a few extra hours around the islands as well.

We met at 8:45 a.m. in the morning at Abel Marina, the main harbour between Cannonvale and Airlie Beach, where lots of other boats depart for sailing trips as well. Well, as everyone – including the crew – was late, we ended up entering the boat a bit later. Under deck the bunk beds were quickly assigned, and we were given the most spacious double bunk bed right at the front of the boat. Back on deck everyone found a place to sit down, that is where there’s some room under the sails or between hatches since there are only a few seats available. After all it’s a true racing boat that was converted to carry passenvers only after its competitive days.

After a short briefing about security measures, on-board facilities, time schedule etc. we sat down, introduced ourselves, started conversations and enjoyed the experience of leaving the safe harbour behind and get comfortable with our life on-board the Ragamuffin. Luckily it didn’t take long until the skipper decided that we were about to set sails. Spontaneously I volunteered and helped getting the sails up.

The course was set for Luncheon Bay on Hook Island, the second biggest island of the Whitsundays. The wind was blowing strong from the south-east, the weather was fantastic and we started to realize why this seascape is so popular while observing the stunning scenery around us.

See some moving pictures of our journey to the Whitsundays:

Our deck hand Ash was busy most of the time not only with setting up the boat and assisting the skipper, but preparing the meals and snacks as well as taking care of other requests and answering many questions about the Whitsundays region. Meanwhile, we sat on deck and watched island after island slip by, some far away, others really close to us.

One of the Whitsunday Islands - maybe Black Island?

One of the Whitsunday Islands - maybe Black Island?

Having arrived in Luncheon Bay, the three of us that had booked the dive special were transported with the Ragamuffin’s little dinghy to a dive boat nearby, while the rest of the group went to snorkel in Luncheon Bay. After setting up our dive gear with our very patient dive instructor we finally were transported to the beach and went into the water from there.

The dive took place on Maureen’s Cove, the water was quite cold (only 21°) and even the 5mm wetsuits didn’t keep us warm for too long. Visibility wasn’t particularly well (8-10 meters at most), but the dive was altogether an enjoyable experience. We found a cute colony of clown fish (remember Nemo?) and lots of other fish and coral gardens.

Back on our boat we departed soon to head to Nara Inlet on Hook Island. There we dropped the anchor, enjoyed tasty snacks and dinner and spent the rest of the day and evening talking and drinking a few cold beers or some wine.

July 29, 2011

After a stormy night with howling winds, waves splashing against our boats and one of the two toilets flushing constantly all night after breaking down on day one we woke up very .. refreshed after a good night’s sleep. Who would’ve thought that? 🙂

We left Nara Inlet very early heading for Tongue Bay on the Whitsunday Island. The sea was quite choppy, the sky grey and overcast .. we could only hope for better weather.

Cloudy sky over the Whitsundays

Cloudy sky over the Whitsundays

The ride to Tongue Bay was pretty rough, especially the passage through Hook and Whitsunday Island. At Tongue Bay we were taken to the island on the dinghy in order to take a walk to a lookout and the famous Whitehaven Beach opposite to Tongue Bay.

Here’s a nice panorama for you:

Whitehaven Beach, Haslewood Island on the horizon

Whitehaven Beach, Haslewood Island on the horizon

The scenery of Whitehaven Beach was stunningly beautiful. Even more so after we went down to the beach and appreciated the powdery, extremely fine-grained silica sand being as bright as snow in the sunlight.

We strolled along the beach, went to some cliffs, watched the waves crushing against the rocks and noticed the weather getting better every minute.

We were unable to identify the blue thing above. Is it some kind of jellyfish or any marine life at all? Anyway, after being picked up by the dinghy and returning to our boat we were aiming for Dunbell Island. There we prepared to jump in the water for some snorkeling at a supposedly great spot.

The visibility was unluckily really bad, maybe 2-3 meters. You could only see the corals when you were almost about to crash into them. I struggled for some time while trying to find something interesting as some parts were very shallow and the current quite strong. At least the weather had cleared up! 🙂

Need a short break? It’s time to introduce the interior of our little boat now. Take a look:

Leaving Dunbell Island, we made our way through the passage mentioned above once more, passing some gorgeous coastline along the way.

At Stonehaven near Hayman Island the boat stayed for the night, and again we engaged in talks, food and drinks. A good way to spend your time, more so when there are no alternatives on a small boat like this, except for reading a book maybe. 🙂

July 30, 2011

On the last day of our trip we started with going to Hayman Island. A great snorkeling site was promised to us, however, after we arrived at Blue Pearl Bay on the Hayman Island a few unexpected visitors were happy to being fed by us throwing bread crumbs into the water:

Quite huge, these fish, and nice to observe. Look here:

We jumped in our stingersuits quickly, and although the water was quite cold here as well (~ 21 °C), we couldn’t wait to see some marine life. We were the first in the water this morning:

At Blue Pearl Bay an amazing underwater scenery awaited us. Huge schools of damsel fish, parrot fish, maori wrasses and many other species were there. Not being shy, they were quite inquisitive as well. The amount of life was only comparable to really good sites on the Great Barrier Reef – awesome!

After some time we borrowed an underwater camera from one of our travelmates and started shooting a few pictures ourselves. That was so great fun that we totally forgot about the cold water.

One of the best underwater shots I ever made is probably the following series:

Being the last one in the water as well, I got picked up by the dinghy at last. 😉

We left this fantastic spot and continued to Langford Island. Here was supposed to be a lively turtle breeding ground. When we were transferred to the beach our skipper told us we had a 60% chance of spotting turtles .. oh boy, was he wrong! We already sighted the first turtle when we hadn’t even arrived.

It didn’t take long until someone from our group had spotted another turtle after hopping into the ocean from the beach. Inka, not having brought her swimmers as she was still cold after Blue Pearl Bay, could not resist and jumped into the water in her underwear. The others and we hastily followed every sighting. We did not only spot one turtle, but at least 6 or 7, some of them swimming near the beach, others resting on the ground between the corals or feeding. And one of them was pretty huge, roughly 1 meter in length.

Simply – wow! An incredible experience, we had never sighted so many turtles in one place. Exhausted we finally took a short walk over the sand to Langford Island itself.

These two experiences and Blue Pearl Bay and Langford Island alone made up for the whole trip being so worth it. However, it was time to say goodbye to the Whitsundays and return to solid ground. The sails were set for a last time, and a strong wind took us back faster than the boat’s engine ever could.

A short clip is also there for you:

After a few hours of good sailing we arrived again at Abel Marina. In the evening we met the crowd from the boat and enjoyed a few beers and meals together and said farewell.

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Bowen

by on Jul.27, 2011, under The East Coast

July 26-27, 2011

In Bowen we underwent two premieres: the first being us the first couchsurfers for our host, the second one for us staying with a genuine mayor! Our host was actually the mayor of Bowen and the Whitsundays. Isn’t CouchSurfing incredible? 😉

Our house was nicely located at Rose Bay with a great view onto the sea:

Nice view from our host's house

Nice view from our host's house

We spent a lot of time at the local tourist information center. Not that the Big Mango (another one of Australia’s big things, yay!) was so fascinating, but we did some profund research on when and what type of Whitsunday sailing trip to book for the upcoming days.

But of course we posed at the Big Mango:

Cutie at the Big Mango

Cutie at the Big Mango

The Bowen region produces most of Australia’s mango fruit. However, this big thing does not remind you very much of a mango, I reckon? 🙂

Thankfully our host took us on a tour through Bowen, providing us with lots of local knowledge about the region and its history. Did you know that Bowen was supposed to be Queensland capital city a 150 years ago? Well, we all know that Brisbane made it in the end. But did you know that large parts of the Hollywood movie „Australia“ were filmed in Bowen? I bet you didn’t! 😉

Bowen has a big tourism industry, lots of retirees (called „Grey Nomads“) come here from the southern regions of Australia with their trailers and stay for the whole and nice Queensland winter. This view shows you why that is so:

Bowen's seascape: Gloucester Island in the back, North Head Island and Stone Island up front

Bowen's seascape: Gloucester Island in the back, North Head Island and Stone Island up front

In the evening we took the great two dogs for a walk to Rose Bay, just a few minutes away – what a life! 😉

The next day we said goodbye to the little furry fellows ..

.. and walked up to Mother Beddock, a rock formation overlooking Rose Bay.

Cutie enjoing the view from Mother Beddock

Cutie enjoing the view from Mother Beddock

We were not the only ones on the lookout:

A bird of prey on the hunt over Mother Beddock

A bird of prey on the hunt over Mother Beddock

Not far from that was Murray Bay ..

At Murray Bay

At Murray Bay

and Horseshoe Bay. Enjoy this nice panorama:

Horseshoe Bay, Bowen

Horseshoe Bay, Bowen

Time to say goodbye to Bowen, and on our way to Airlie Beach we were!

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The S.S. Yongala wreck dive

by on Jul.25, 2011, under The East Coast

July 25, 2011

We left Townsville very early in the morning as we had to be in Ayr at 7:30am for our next big adventure: a wreck dive at the S.S. Yongala.

This steam ship sank off Cape Bowling Green in a hurricane in 1912, leaving all 122 passengers dead. It was finally discovered over 50 years later. Since its demise a rich, abundant marine life has settled on the wreck. Moreover, as it is a graveyard with human bones still lying well visible inside the ship it is now a Heritage site, meaning: it is protected, penetration or alteration of its objects is forbidden. Diving this wreck is supposed to be one of the top wreck dives in Australia, and we had been planning to do it since we had learnt diving at the Great Barrier Reef!

We started the journey to Ayr still in the dark and could enjoy the sun rising up. In addition to that we observed pre-harvest cane field burnings, a procedure not approved of by many locals but still traditionally executed by some farmers. It serves to get rid of wildlife and burn off the leaves, leaving behind the stalks only.

At the Yongala Dive Center we checked in, set up our gear and got a full and detailed briefing.

Afterwards we were transported to the beach, got on the transport vessel and had a rough ride to get to the wreck site as the sea was quite choppy.

It took us about 30 minutes. Then we finally jumped into the water for our first dive around the wreck. The abundance of marine life down here was amazing: huge schools of fish, turtles, rays, giant gropers, corals – it was all there and hanging around the wreck. On the surface again some of us had to struggle with sea sickness. Funnily in the water everything’s fine, but on the boat everything’s shaking around. I could only so avoid throwing up despite having taken pills against it!

On our second dive we could enjoy the scenery even more, with some key items being pointed out by the instructors again.

And now for some pictures, dive down with us into this fascinating adventure:

After returning to the dive center we enjoyed a good barbecue all together, still full of impressions.

In the end of the day we made our way further south and arrived in Bowen to stay for the night.

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Townsville

by on Jul.24, 2011, under The East Coast

July 22-24, 2011

After the heavy 910 km drive the day before it was about time for a damage assessment on the LandCruiser: not only had the headlights been smashed by gravel a road train had kicked into the air. The windscreen had a few big cracks as well, and the petrol system still didn’t work.

Headlights smashed :(

Headlights smashed 🙁

On our first day in Townsville we therefore ended up hunting and collecting spare parts, i.e. a petrol pump and new headlights. After spending the whole day for this, including repairs, the petrol system still was only intermittently working. Finally I put on the old pump. On a sidenote: a few days later everything went back to normal as if it never had stopped working. Anyway, after all we had made it to East Coast.

The little time we spent in Townsville was filled with exploring, e.g. a drive to the really incredibly steep Castle Hill. All kinds of people walked, jogged or cycled up there – phew!

Magnetic Island is only a stone’s throw away from Townsville. Unluckily we didn’t have enough time for a ride over there.

Here’s a fine panorama stretching over Rowes Bay and Magnetic Island up to the port area:

Townsville from Castle Hill

Townsville from Castle Hill

Of course we took a walk along the famous city beach „The Strand“:

As Townsville is located far north in Queensland, its climate is tropical. You’ll find lots of palms, strangler figs etc. all over the town. At this time of the year it’s supposed to be winter – those winters are better than most German summers! 🙂 We explored the inner city as well, walking and strolling along the streets.

We concluded our sightseeing with some planespotting at the nearby RAAF base:

Not to forget: Inka’s new passion (cooking) resulted in some great meals!

Yum yum!

Yum yum!

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