Sydney to Eungella

We picked up our camper van and drove out of Sydney over the Harbour Bridge and started our journey up the Pacific Highway. We quickly discovered that road kill is very different in Australia as we encountered numerous wombats, koalas and a kangaroo. Whilst the camper van has done 236,000 km it’s actually quite nippy and is very comfortable inside, if a little worn. We stayed our first night in Port Macquarie where we went out for a Mexican but ended up having pizza (food is relatively very expensive in Australia and we were too tight to pay $32 each for a burrito!). The camper was very comfy and we had a good first night’s sleep.  The next morning we visited the local Koala Hospital, where we also saw our first kookaburras and wild koalas. From there we went to the Kooloonbung Creek nature reserve and walked the “GS Sykes Trail” (randomly the ‘S’ stands for ‘Silvester’ Cat and Alan!) where there were lots of vibrant colourful birds and we spotted some owls sleeping in a tree. We stayed the night at Coff’s Harbour, a town who’s biggest claim to fame is the ‘Big Banana’ which started Australia’s craze for building other random big things.
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From Coffs Harbour we drove to Byron Bay, the most Eastern point of Australia (catching a glimpse of the ‘Big Prawn’ in Ballina, as well as our first wild kangaroos on our way). Byron is a buzzy place with a festival atmosphere and an eclectic mix of surfers, ageing hippies, drug addicts, families on holiday and ‘hippie wannabes.’ We walked along the beach and up to the lighthouse spotting brush turkeys and wallabies on the way. From the top there were vast views across the Pacific Ocean and we stood and watched humpback whales swimming by. In the evening we went out for drinks in town. After going for one drink in a cheesy bar with a Pat Sharp-esq DJ wearing a pink sequinned hat, we eventually found the laid back Railway bar and relaxed with schooners of beer whilst watching John Derwin (who doesn’t love his music?) playing a mix blues and folk music. From Byron we took the Tweed Coast Road through the National Park and went for a walk along a deserted beach. Alex unsuccessfully chased an eagle trying to take a photo and Kate did some star jumps. We drove from New South Wales into Queensland, through Brisbane and up to the Glasshouse Mountains National Park (named by Captain Cook after the mountains reminded him of buildings in his native town in Yorkshire). The mountains rise from nowhere and stick out like giant tombstones in an otherwise flat landscape. On our way up we saw some kangaroos close up and watched them bouncing across the open landscape.
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We stayed overnight in Beerwah and then spent the day at the late Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo. It was a great day out and we got to see lots of Australian animals close up. We hand fed and stroked kangaroos, saw koalas, wombats and echidnas and lots of other animals. We watched Terri and Bindi Irwin (Steve Irwin’s wife and daughter) do a show in the Croccoseum, with a Dingo doing a demonstration of what to do if you are bitten by a snake. Then they gots the crocs in and Wes (one of the keepers) was so close to getting attacked he exclaimed “Shit! Er…I mean Crickey. Sorry Kids!”
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From Beerwah we drove to Hervey Bay where our campsite actually had toilets called ‘Bloke’s’ and ‘Sheila’s!’ We did a day trip to Fraser Island (the world’s largest sand island) in a four wheel drive vehicle on very rough roads. We swam in the idyllic Lake McKenzie with crystal clear water. Congratulations to Glen and Michele (two Aussies on our trip) who got engaged whilst we were at Lake Mckenzie! (Randomly Glen used to play cricket for Cassington when he lived in the UK, which is the village next to where Kate grew up). Also on our trip were friendly Germans Martin and Sabina who live in Japan and a French guy called Frank, who is going to live in South Korea and then Long Island. We drove along 75 mile beach looking for dingoes, saw the Maheno ship wreck and floated down the gentle rapids of Eli Creek.
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The next day we went whale watching from Hervey Bay and had incredible sightings of mothers and calves right next to the boat. The area was teaming with whales as they use the warm waters as a nursery at this time of year. At some points there were pods all around us and it was hard to know where to look. That night we did our first ‘wild’ camp where a fight broke out between some ‘bogans’ which lead to a slightly uneasy evening and night’s sleep! From there we drove to the idyllic mountain rain forests and national parks of Eungella (meaning ‘in the clouds’) which is allegedly the best place to see platypus in the wild. We stayed at a campsite with a vast and beautiful view across the valley below. It is owned by an interesting lady called Diane who lived the high life in Sydney as a agent for Aussie actors/actresses and bizarrely also trained as a Deacon and set up a homeless shelter before giving it all up, travelling Australia for 3 1/2 years with only a $37 tent and then ended up buying this small campsite as it was about to close down. We stayed for two nights and went to Broken Creek on both nights to look for platypus. On the first evening, after a long wait we finally got to see these illusive creatures. On the second evening we were lucky enough to have sightings all through our visit and saw at least 8 wild platypus (apparently this is the correct plural!) as well as some wallabies in the rainforest.
Tomorrow we will head to Arlie Beach for our trip to the Whitsundays…

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PS: We just saw a possum outside!

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