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Down Under10 Months on the Road

On 19 September 2004 from Cairns, QLD | comments closed

Today exactly 10 months ago I left the Netherlands on a jet plane, not knowing when I would be back again. It turns out it will be pretty much a full year of travelling, considering the fact that I have less than 2 months left during which I need to travel down the east coast to Sydney, and I need some time to sell my car at the end.

Aside from 3,5 weeks in South-East Asia and 6,5 weeks in New Zealand, I have now spent 7,5 months in Australia, driving almost 14.000km. By now I have seen a fairly decent part of the country:
– Sydney & Blue Mountains;
– Tasmania;
– Melbourne, Great Ocean Road & Grampians;
– Almost all of Western Australia;
– Almost all of the Northern Territory;
– Outback Queensland, Cairns & environs.

I will skip the state of South Australia entirely, there is just not enough time (and money left) to see everything.

The last couple of days I spent relaxing in Cairns, and I put up notices looking for people to travel with. I have been spending the evenings at the Woolshed, a very popular backpacker bar that also serves meals for A$4-6 (=2,30 to 3,50 euro). It is almost impossible to cook by myself for that price. Additionally, it has a real east coast Australia party atmosphere. In Cairns I have definitely entered the realm of the sun-sea-beach-party backpackers, whom I have been avoiding up to now. I will probably keep doing that, although a bit of party every few days is not a bad thing to end my trip with.

Down UnderNorthern Territory Photos

On 17 September 2004 from Cairns, QLD | comments closed

Besides sorting out my mail (regular and electronic) this afternoon, I also spent some hours on updating my website and uploading the best photos of the Northern Territory.

Down UnderCape Tribulation

On from Cairns, QLD | comments closed

Wednesday morning I picked up Sarah from her accommodation, since she was coming with Dom and I for a 2-night trip to Cape Tribulation. After shopping (always seems to take ages), we left the city northbound. The first stop was Mossman Gorge, a not-so-impressive gorge, where we made a short hike. I must say that after almost 10 months of travelling it becomes hard to get impressed by natural features that I have already seen before somewhere else. Especially with gorges, it is almost impossible to surpass the ones in Karijini NP and the Kimberley. Anyway, after we took the ferry over the Daintree River the road became much more winding and hilly, with maximum speeds of 40km/h to 60km/h. Therefore we needed pretty much all the time to get to the Cape Tribulation campsite. But after we set up the tent there we took our time to make some nice BBQ dinner in typical Aussi fashion.

Cape Tribulation is special because it is a place ‘where the rainforest meets the reef’, so all the beaches have rainforest on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other side (the Great Barrier Reef is quite a bit off the coast). Since it was not really warm enough to lay on the beach (and it is boring anyway), we spent all Thursday making short walks through the rainforest on our way back from Cape Tribulation. We ended up right above the Daintree River at Cape Kimberley, where we camped.

This morning we drove to Daintree Village, but left it almost straight away, since there seemed to be absolutely nothing interesting there. From there on we drove straight back to Cairns, because I had to go to the post office for my license plates. As it turned out, the Australian Post office in Alice Springs messed up big time by misspelling my last name, so my license plates were still in Alice Springs. Luckily they were able to send them straight on to Brisbane, where I can pick them up (hopefully).

Down UnderPADI Advanced Open Water Diver

On 14 September 2004 from Cairns, QLD | comments closed

I spent the last 3 days living aboard the Scubapro II, one of Pro Dive Cairns’ multi-million dollar dive boats. At first I was not planning to do my Advanced Open Water Diver course with Pro Dive Cairns, because they are quite a bit more expensive than the competition. However, I could get a standby rate (A$550 = 315 euro) for the course, making Pro Dive just as expensive as the competition, so it was an easy decision to go with the best company. On Saturday I got all my dive gear fitted and studied a bit of the course materials. I also sorted out all the photos I made since Darwin and burned them on CDs (I always burn my photos on two CDs, cannot risk the chance of losing them).

Sunday morning I got picked up from the hostel at 6.15 and transferred to the dive boat. I am glad I decided to get some anti-seasickness medication, because the 3-hour trip to the reef was far from smooth. The next 3 days I made 11 dives on the Great Barrier Reef, almost continuously changing in and out of the wetsuit, so it was fairly tiring. We were looked after really well though, with 3 buffet meals a day and snacks in between. The group consisted of only 20 divers (and 1 snorkeller), so there was lots of space (the boat has a capacity of 32). Of the 11 dives that I did 5 were for the Advanced Open Water Diver course, and consisted of a Navigation Dive (trying not to get lost underwater), Night Dive (in complete darkness), Deep Dive (up to 30m deep), Photography Dive (making lots of photos) and Naturalist Dive (trying to recognise the fish and coral). The course turned out to be fairly easy, but lots of fun to do. During the course I dived with David from Italy, but the 5 dives afterwards I did with Sarah from Switzerland. She had just completed her Open Water Diver course, so it was entirely up to me to make sure we would not get lost. Not that it is actually possible to get lost while diving, because it is always possible to surface to find out where the boat is. But being “geographically embarrased” (as getting lost is called) is not fun, because we might have had to snorkel back to the boat for a long way. Luckily my scout skills also worked underwater, so we never had to snorkel too far.

The last 5 dives were also the best for spotting aquatic life (with the exception of the night dive, just cannot see much in the dark). We spotted a whitetip reef shark and swam along a turtle for a while! In the end I was really glad I booked the 3-day liveaboard trip with Pro Dive, because everything was organised perfectly, and the safety procedures on the boat were really good. After the trip on Tuesday evening we all had dinner together in the city, and checked out some of the underwater photographs.