Australia – conquering land, air, and sea. Part II

This is the second installation to a three part series. Please see the first part if you haven’t.

Day 4: Arlie Beach -> Cardwell, Cairns

Woke up bright and early to get ready for another long drive to Cairns.

As we left quite early in the morning, we managed to reach Cairns just before sunset.

After settling in at our AirBnB, we decided to go the night market just 10 mins drive away.

Hop, Skip, Swim, and Jump

After walking around, we decided to treat ourselves to a good meal, since there is only so much junk food we can take. We wanted to share a few entrees as none of us were brave enough to eat a whole piece of the more ‘exotic’ offerings. Wanting a more ‘wholesome(?)’ experience, we ordered Oysters, Seafood platter, and Hop Skip Swim and Jump, which was a platter of Kangaroo, Crocodile, Barramundi, and Emu meat.

For those of you who hasn’t tried these meat before, here’s a break down of the tastes (if I remembered correctly):

Kangaroo – unseasoned beef.

Crocodile – texture of chicken, but the taste of pork

Emu – texture of beef, taste of chicken

Seafood Platter

Day 5: Cairns

We were out early this morning as we were going to dive the Great Barrier Reef! This has been a dream of mine ever since I got my diving license. Of course, the dive was amazing with hardly any currents.

To be totally honest, I’ve done my research (as usual), and was freaking out as I realized it was Jellyfish season. Getting stung would totally suck as it would have f**ked up the rest of the trip.

Nonetheless, I kept this all at the back of my head and just go with it. We decided to dive with ProDive Cairns as recommended by a friend of mine.

The experience was totally different. I was certainly not expecting a dive boat with air-con and carpet flooring! Talk about lux!

So there is something I have to admit. I got totally seasick in between the first and second dive. I vomited so much and felt so queasy after, that I wanted to skip the second dive. But my man, he managed to persuade me into going for it anyway, and I’m glad he did.

 

Triggerfish

Stingray

Hawksbill Turtle

My man and one of our mates

Hellow there!

New Gull Coco mask that my dad got me

 

On the second dive, I had some difficulty clearing my mask. Not sure if it is because I had a new mask on, and wasn’t used to a low volume mask. I did the usual, flooding the mask and all, but the water in the mask just wouldn’t clear. I started to look for my man with my flooded mask, to try to ascend and clear it manually. Who knew, my man was busy taking photos of got knows what.

After swimming towards him (yes, with the water clogged mask), I dragged him up with me. We weren’t too deep (I hope), about 8m, so I just ascended as quickly as I can before finally clearing the damn water, and descending again. I didn’t really dare to clear my mask after, if it fogs, it fogs, which kinda hindered the experience.

By the third dive, I have put so much spit and anti-fogging solution that I didn’t have to clear it once!

After going back to land, we decided that we shall eat in that night to save some money. Eating out ain’t cheap in Aussieland man. So we found our way to Woolworths and bought a bunch of groceries.

The guys cook, the girl watch

Menu for the night: Pollo e Funghi Pomodoro della pasta (trying to sound fancy saying chicken and mushroom pasta in tomato), KFC,and grilled sausages

We had an early night as we had a 23 hours drive back to Cairns which all 3 drivers were dreading.

Day 6: Cairns -> Townsville, Campaspe, Coorada, Miles

The drivers all agreed to take a 6 hour rotation each and to take a different route from how we got to Cairns from Gold Coast. We were almost driving non-stop before our first stop at Townsville for lunch. Breakfast was just the leftovers from last night’s dinner (we had waaaay too much food. Note to self: 1 packet of pasta can cook more than 4 person’s share).

 

 

It was almost non-stop driving when we hit some Savanna-esque scenery. There were giant ant hills everywhere. It was quite a sight to behold, but don’t the farmers think it might be a problem? Anyway, half way through the journey, we had to make a stop as we saw camels!

 

 

Soon, it was night and we had to make a stop for dinner. As there was no towns anywhere near, we decided to just eat at a truckstop that serves microwaved food. To be fair, the food served was really quite good, but the price is what you will get at a cafe here in Singapore. Maybe the lack of civilization nearby is what drove the price up. It was also at this truckstop, that we found out that the new president of the US is now Donald Trump, which led to quite a heated conversation among the truckers.

After a food and toilet break, we were back on the road, and I was soon sleepy due to food coma. Suddenly, I felt the road getting bumpy and had to wake up. That was around 11PM already, and realised that we had went off-road!

I thought my man had taken a wrong turn, as throughout the journey from Gold Coast to Cairns, it had been the smooth roads of the expressway. I was certainly not expecting to go off-road. Thank God we had decided to rent an SUV or I would have no idea how we would have made it through the rough terrain. I then proceed to triple check the GPS, and indeed, we were on the right track! Being super paranoid, a million scenarios raced through my mind, including scenes from ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ and ‘Hills have Eyes’. I couldn’t wait to get off this road, but to my dismay, it was over 121km! I was truly thankful that my man had experience driving off-road. So people, if you decide to go on the same route as I did, be prepared.

From the other pictures, you guys should have known that we have an Indian friend, and it was also this friend that started making fun of the scenarios playing in my head, by saying that he might be the first to get murdered. Just when things cannot get any bumpier (pun intended), we found that we have only a half tank of gas left.

Thank heavens for Eco-mode for this vehicle, as I wouldn’t have want to guess what would happen if the gas tank went dry in this place. There was no cell signal as well (despite having wifi), so I couldn’t send my dad back home my location (I was really freakn’ out ok?). Needless to say, I couldn’t sleep at all until I was back unto smooth roads, with my eyes darting between the blackness outside, the counting down of kilometers on the GPS, and the gas tank.

 

 

By the time we got back on the main road, it was dawn. I don’t usually see the sunrise (not a morning person), so seeing the sunrise here, it was truly motivational.

The relief when we finally found a town with a petrol station!

 

Freezing morning in Miles

That’s all for now. Stay tuned for the 3rd installment!

Signing off~

 

Australia – Conquering Land, Air, and Sea. Part I

The exact route we took

It has been about 3 weeks since I got back from this epic journey. However, I returned home to an ever growing pile in the in-tray and never-ending emails, it feels like punishment for enjoying life. Anyway, I’ve finally graduated and part of the celebrations (or lackthereof), my university mates planned a trip to Australia, with my man tagging along.

The planning stage (including relevant bookings) took about 2 months, for a 9 days road trip from Gold Coast, all the way to Cairns. As there might be too many photos, I decided to break this into 3 parts.

Day 1: Singapore ->Gold Coast, Currumbin, Yatala, Hervey Bay

We took a night flight from Singapore to Gold Coast. As I was working the day of the flight, I did a mad rush back home, had a quick dinner, and had a mad rush to the airport. So to be honest, I was really tired by the time I check in.

But the beauty of night flights are that you get to sleep on board, and it wasn’t all that full. So yes, I manage to stretch out over 3 seats to sleep. Although not the most peaceful due to the turbulence and the constant “ding!”, asking passengers to wear on their seat belts.

Upon landing, we had to grab our rental car, and our adventure starts! We needed to eat as there wasn’t any meals on the plane (woes of budget travel), so we just stopped at a random bakery just outside the airport. My first meal in Australia was a meat pie which something new to me as the gravy was so watery. Homegirl was expecting Shepard’s pie dryness. It didn’t take long before I was making a mess and decide to just give up on it aka my man to finish it.

First stop of the trip, Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. To be completely honest, my travelling party and I thought that this place was a park which was free entry to anyone and not a zoo (pictures are so darn deceiving). Even so, we paid for the admission, which was around Aud$50/pax. To me, it was so worth it though!

I wish to live like koalas

Bleeding heart Pigeon. So apt!

Trying my best to get a selfie

There was so much to see, that I wasn’t expecting to walk so damn much. Remember when I said that we thought this was a park, well, our initial plan was to stay here for about 2hours and then head to rainbow beach, but what fools we were. We stayed from 9AM till about 4PM before deciding to leave, since we had a 4 hours drive to Hervey Bay.

Is a domesticated Dingo still considered a Dingo? Or just a really large dog?

Their fur man, so soft….

One of the reasons why I love this place is that they have free roaming Kangaroos! I know, there are other zoos in Australia that might have the same concept, butthe guides here are so friendly too, they kept dishing out so many interesting facts to us; such as: did you know that the female Kangaroo can choose when they intend to give birth? Talk about convenience.

Next stop before Hervey Bay, is the famous Yatala Pie Shop! Located in between Gold Coast and Brisbane, I had to stop for this as my dad could not stop raving about it ever since he knew I was going to Australia.

Steak and Mushroom

What my dad failed to tell me was how big the serving was. I personally, could not finish it, and my travelling party was by the end, struggling to finish it. As with the first pie I had in Currumbin, this pie turned into a goopy mess after I was 1/4 way through with it. Worst part was, we had this to go (eating it in the car) as we were in a rush to be at Hervey Bay. Overall, it was really good, there’s something about a steaming hot pie on a windy day.

By the time we reached Hervey Bay Motel, its was about 9:30PM. We got a shock however, when we saw a sign at the receptionist that say “Close at 9:00PM”. We tried our luck pressing the door bell, and thank heavens,  a guy came out to receive it. Weirdly enough, it seems like he was waiting for us, as I did not even need to say my name, he knew who I was and handed us the key. The exterior of the hotel reminded me of the Bates Motel, but it seemed like the guys really liked the place as the rooms were clean and comfy.

Had a walk to the beach just across the road, and out to the pier, and there was this strange wailing sound. One of my mates actually thinks it might be whale song!

Day 2: Hervey Bay -> Childers, Cordalba, Rockhampton, Arlie Beach

Woke up bright and early the next day as we had a 9 hours drive ahead of us. Had a quick breakfast of toasted bread and Vegemite (acquired taste much), had a short walk to the beach just opposite the hotel, and we were off!

Enjoying the sea breeze of Hervey bay

Breakfast at Childers

There was a lot to see on the roads, of course we depended on the GPS a lot. Luckily we rented a portable wifi from Changi Airport so we had unlimited wifi throughout the trip.

Farms lined the roads of Cordalba

We drove past Rockhampton, Beef capital of Australia. Much as I wanted to try a steak here, there wasn’t much time. We do however had time for some photo taking.

St. Joseph’s Cathedral

Just how gorgeous is this place??

Lucky there were rest stops along the way ( not all with toilets though) to allow change of drivers and rest, so the drive was not all that bad. There were even road signs advising you to take a break from the drive.

Driving at night was quite scary at first, since there were no street lamps on the highway, and my wild imagination does not help one bit. However, we soon got used to it, and it turns out, the 3 guys much prefer driving at night!

Heck, it was so dark that you cannot even make out what was beyond the sides of the road! But just looking at the stars, *sigh* , so beautiful.

By the time we reach Arlie beach, it was close to midnight and we were looking forward to much needed rest. To our dismay, our AirBnB was in a really disgusting state. Empty bottles of wine in the kitchen, cooked food in the rubbish bin, bed was clearly not made, and towels were on the floor.

I quickly contacted the owner, letting her know the state of the house, along with pictorial evidence, while 2 of our mates went out on the road again to hopefully find an motel that we can crash in for the night since it will be impossible to get the cleaner in past midnight.

When finding a motel with vacancy proved futile, we decided to just crash for the night with some towels spread out on the bed, as we had an exciting activity to do the next day!

Day 3: Arlie Beach

Woke up early to go for a heart stopping activity. Yes, I went skydiving! Another one off the bucket list!

One of my travelling mates recommended we dive with Skydive Australia since his friend survived *laughing morbidly*. I got one of the funnier instructors, who told me just before the dive that he has jumped a grand total of: 14 times. He kept making jokes, some of which were kind of lame, but it worked to ease of the tension. Taking the plane ( which was about 20 minutes) still didn’t strike my anxiety, I thought I might be braver than I thought I was. After the first guy jumped off, my heart stopped.

What was I thinking? Signing up to jump off a friggin’ plane 14,000ft up in the air?! The paranoia in me kicked in and a thousand ‘what ifs’ flew through my mind. The only way I could calm myself was to chant the Risk Assessment: Real risk VS Perceived risk. As I was the last to jump, I had to see my friends one by one jump off the plane. Before I protest, the instructor pushed me off the plane, and I was free falling.

I can’t really describe the feeling, and I honestly do not know what I was thinking at that point of time. All I could think about was ‘smile for the camera’ since the instructor had a GoPro strapped to his hand. Maybe it was a mixture of shock and all the expletives coming out of my mouth.

Anyway, the instructor told me towards the end that he dived for 14,ooo times.

 

But the view, oh Lord, was amazing! This is probably one of the best ways to see Whitsunday islands. The hang time (after the parachute was deployed) was about 5-10mins, during which I had a short Geography lesson from the instructor. I was thankful that I did not throw up midflight (if you remember what happened in Boracay during Parasailing), as that would have been a disaster for people below us. Imagine having a romantic walk on the beach and vomit just rains all over you.

 

When we finally reach the ground (I cannot stop thanking God for land), I gave my man a hug, seeing how we both survived this. Aftermath, my legs couldn’t stop shaking, and nausea hit me bad. 

When we got back to our AirBnb, the cleaner was here, and was so nice to leave a box of chocolates and a card to apologise for the mess. Even the owner offered to refund us for the stay which was awesome!

After resting my heart for a while while lounging around our AirBnb, we decided to go take a walk around the place.

 

Yes! I got ya!

Cheap food, with free booze.

So that concludes the first part of the Aussie series.

 

 

Australia – conquering land, air, and sea. Part III

This is the third installation to a three part series, so please read Part 1 and Part 2.

Day 7: Miles -> Gold Coast

Returning to Gold Coast also marks the end of our epic road trip. It was bittersweet, since we all can’t wait to just get our asses off the car and unto a bed. From Miles, it was another 1-2 hours drive before hitting that ever so familiar M1 expressway that we took from Gold Coast and driving through Brisbane.

While on the way to our AirBnB, we saw Main beach and we knew we had to turn in to check it out. You cannot imagine how refreshing it was for such a change in scenery; from the dry Savanna to the salty winds of the Beach.

After having fun on the beach, we needed to get a much needed breakfast, since our last proper meal was the microwaved sandwich at the truck stop.

 

More tradish Bacon and Eggs for me

As we still had quite a few hours before we can check-in to our AirBnB, we decided to just walk around Broadbeach.

We wanted to check out Burleigh Heads lookout point, but really sadly, we couldn’t find the place. We were searching for about an hour to two using Google Maps before deciding to give up. We also wanted to checkout Skypoint, which is one of the tallest building to check out the scenery, but when we saw the price, we were like ‘nah’. After 2 failed missions, we decided to just go to our AirBnb.

The view from our AirBnB was amazing! We could easily see the beach and all the surfers doing their thang. As we had a really long day, we decided to just head to the beach for some quality rest and relaxation. Dinner was just catching up on some fast food such as Dominoes and Red Rooster (which we honestly have no idea how to eat since we ordered a whole chicken and there were stuffing in there. Weren’t very sure if we were suppose to eat the stuffing though).

Day 8: Gold Coast Universal Studios

We wanted to go to DreamWorld, but due to the tragedy that struck, DreamWorld was closed. So we decided to go to MovieWorld instead, since theme parks are one of the main attractions when in Gold Coast.

All ready to conquer the coasters!

Funny story about the red coaster in the above picture. While we were queuing for the entrance tickets, we saw people screaming from the red coaster, and I told my friends: I am not going on that.  So once we were in, I saw there was a Super Man ride and just made a beeline towards it. Soon I was strapped to the seats. It was a slow ride, since the ride took us around some displays and props; the story goes that the subway has collapsed and we needed to get out. Before I can think about anything else, we were zooming upwards super fast (or “Super Man” fast as what the speakers were blasting)! I had no time for regrets.

When the ride was finally over, I had no idea what the hell has happened, my legs were jelly and I was dizzy. When we got out and looked, yes, this was the red coaster that I said right at the start that I wasn’t going to get on. We also learnt from the other tourists that the Super Man ride was probably to scariest here.

My guys were telling me ” you survived skydiving, what is roller-coaster to you?” Oh well, I did not regret not taking the Arkham Asylum coaster, even though my friend did say that it wasn’t as scary as the Superman ride.

This was on my ‘must try’ food list; it was really quite nice

This Flume ride, is seriously one of the best I’ve every been on! I was expecting a normal straightforward Flume ride, but this, this was far from straight forward. It is probably one of my favourite rides as well.

Who can miss the parade?

For Singaporeans of my generation, Scooby’s Spooky Coaster is almost the same as the Panasonic ride in old Escape theme park at Downtown East. To be short, this is an indoor coaster which is completely in the dark. I was not expecting this to be honest as I saw a lot of children rushing to go on this ride. What I got was a really fast coaster that was really rough as well! Our seating arrangements was kinda wrong as we’ve got 2 heavy weights on the same side of the car so I was fearing for my life every time the coaster made a sharp turn! 

After a really tiring day, we decided to go to the famous Surfer’s Paradise for their night market. I was expecting to be able to try some street food, but unfortunately, all they sell there are jewelry and knick knacks. It was quite entertaining nonetheless.

Day 9

This was the last day of our epic journey in Australia, and man, I’m starting to love this place so much. The dread to go back home to my flooding inbox *sighs*. Not wanting to waste a single minute, I woke up extremely early, 5AM, to be exact, to do what I came to Gold Coast to do, surf!

Total spending:

Accomodation

Hervey Bay Motel: $35.50/pax

AirBnB at Arlie Beach: $83.75/pax

AirBnB at Cairns: $65.50/pax 

AirBnB at Gold Coast: $79.50/pax

Car rental: $99.83/pax (not incl. petrol)

Air Tickets: $446.70/pax

Skydiving: $485.83/pax (incl. photos + video)

Diving: $328.20pax

Movieworld: $79/pax

As usual, a few tips before ending off:

  1. When planning a road trip, ensure that all drivers bring along their driving license. There may also be additional driver charge. Also, always get car insurance.
  2. Do ensure to follow traffic rules, since their traffic cameras are really well hidden.
  3. Rental cars usually does not come with the equipment to pay tolls. So you might have to go online to make the payment.