03.02.2012 - 03.10.2012
Just before we dropped off my Mom, Steven and Emily at the airport, we picked up our transportation and lodging for the next week… the Jucy Campervan. It is a lime green old-school minivan which has been retrofitted with a double bed, sink, fridge and stove. Over the next week, we planned to drive south to Brisbane in order to catch our next flight, but we started our campervan odyssey with a detour north to Cape Tribulation.
The Cape is pretty much the furthest north you can get on sealed roads along the east coast of Australia and is well known for its pristine rainforest. It was named by Captain Cook who ran into the Great Barrier Reef offshore and almost sank. While we were there, we took several short hikes and a boat ride on the Daintree River for some croc spotting. On the boat ride we saw one adult female known locally as “Lizzie” and several of her week old baby crocs.
Cruising around in our fancy jucy
A view of Cape Tribulation
It's box jellyfish season- makes you want to stay out of the water!
On the rainforest boardwalk
Lizzie the croc
On our boat trip out on the Daintree River
After 24-hours in and around Cape Tribulation, we started our southbound journey. Since our campervan is also our hotel, after six hours of driving, we pulled over for the night at a rest stop to sleep, where, shockingly, six or so other campervans were also parked for the night. It was far from our best night of sleep ever. As my brother so astutely pointed out after we had already rented the campervan, it doesn’t have AC inside when the engine is off, so it felt like a sauna most of the night. It was a lose-lose situation for us, if we opened the windows the “mozzies” (mosquitoes) would fly in, but since we left them closed, we baked. Fortunately for us, as we made our way south the temperature cooled off and it became much more comfortable.
After another eight hours of driving, we finally arrived in Airlie Beach, the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands. The islands are spectacularly beautiful and the water surprisingly blue. We took a day trip out to some of the more popular islands and spent time on Hamilton Beach which has the whitest sand. Apparently the sand on Hamilton Beach is 99% silicone and so pure and fine that NASA used the sand when constructing the Hubble Telescope- according to our guide. In the Australian summer, Queensland has an over population of the infamous box jellyfish, so we all had to wear “stinger suits” when swimming and snorkeling (basically a giant leotard). It’s apparently a pretty nasty sting so we forewent our vanity and put them on.
The amazing Whitsundays
On Hamilton Beach
Taken from the viewpoint on at Hamilton Beach
After leaving behind the Whitsundays, we headed down to Bundaberg. During our drive we spotted and waved to the other Jucy’s rolling down the road. It was pretty funny- like any other “club” (boaters, truck drivers, motorcycles) you wave at each other. Fortunately, after a long day of driving, we arrived in Bundaberg just in time for our next activity – sea turtle watching. The Mon Repos Turtle Rookery just outside of Bundaberg has nightly beach tours during the turtle breeding season. We were really lucky because on our tour we were able to see almost 100 baby turtles dig out of their nest and scurry like the devil into the ocean and also a huge female sea turtle come onto the beach and lay a clutch of eggs. Apparently, sea turtles come back to the same place they were born to lay their eggs and only one in a thousand live long enough to reproduce. What an amazing experience – it was something you usually only see on National Geographic, but we were fortunate enough to see it in real time.
One of the baby turtles before taking the plunge
The big mama turtle getting measured before heading back to the ocean
We spent the night at a beachfront caravan park- can’t beat an ocean view when you wake up in the morning- even if you did just sleep in a van
Our next big stop was Hervey Bay, the jumping off point for Fraser Island. Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world and the only place where the rainforest grows on sand. From Hervey Bay we took a ferry to the island where we picked up another day trip. The tour company drove us in a bus on steroids around the major sites on the island, including the rainforest, the Maheno shipwreck, and Lake McKenzie. The lake is amazing because it’s entirely made up of rainwater and is the clearest water I have ever seen. The island to us really resembled Cumberland Island off the coast of Georgia, one of Jeff’s favorite spots. We also managed to see a dingo (a wild dog) on the beach; it came up to our group curiously sniffing around for left food.
Making breakfast from the back of the Jucy
Jeff with his makeshift ice pack of soda cans (his foot swelled like crazy- but we had no idea from what)
A classic strangler fig on Fraser island
A view of the Maheno shipwreck
Posing with our snazzy tour vehicle
The clearest lake I've ever seen- Lake McKenzie
After snuggling up with other backpackers at our campervan site that night, we headed to our last stop along the way, Noosa Heads. It is a great little surf town on the edge of a national park and only a couple hours north of Brisbane. While in Noosa we took a hike through the national park, watched some surfers, and were lucky enough to see our first koala in the wild. He (or she) was sleeping in a tree and only moved just far enough to confirm that we were not a threat.
The cutie koala
After driving over 1,000 miles from Cape Tribulation, we finally made it to Brisbane. We had some time to kill before our flight so we checked out the Museum of Modern Art and the Queensland Museum, which was very kid friendly, thus I enjoyed. We also stumbled upon an Irish festival (we didn’t realize St. Paddy’s Day was coming up!) before dropping off our Jucy and heading to the airport. It was certainly a great and memorable trip down the East Coast in our Jucy!
As I write this, we are in the Brisbane airport, Melbourne bound, where we’ll meet up with our friend Brad who will be traveling with us for the next two weeks We’ll write more soon!