From Monday December 19th to January 13th, my sweetheart Alex and I are traveling through Eastern Australia.
This morning, I landed at the airport of Melbourne and waited 2 hours for Alex to arrive. We headed then to the Botanic garden which was our first encounter with Australia fauna and flora.
We headed to the neighbourhood of Fotzer were we ate some tapas and had nice discussions with Melbourne people.
Tomorrow is the start of the great ocean road trip!!!
First day, we took our wicked camper van and drove to Torquay the start of the great ocean road. We had a walk there and a drink next to the sea and went to Bells Beach were lots of surfers go to surf.
Alex was very excited about it; the flies even more as you can see behind his jacket (Australian flies are really nothing annoying compared to Swiss ones):
Our first night in a nearby camping was fun although not the most comfortable. Here is a little picture of our first camper diner with our red van behind:
The following day, we went to the same surfer spot and Alex went for a 2 hours surf after having hired some gear. It was fun seeing him surf for the first time and shooting a few pictures of him with his camera.
After having lunched at a very good and healthy burger restaurant, we left for the Torquay info center to get more details abour the region. It happens to be a very rich place with lots of walking trails, waterfalls, animals including lots of birds to see. There is also a surf museum that we decided to go visit at the end of our great ocean road trip.
We then went for some bathing suit shopping and left to Anglesea for a little walk next to a beautiful lake behind the beach.
The wind is this region is so strong that it is just preferable sometimes to avoid walking next to the sea, but rather a little more inside the lands.
We then left to find our next camping spot in Lorne and found cacatoès and an other cute animal with spines (like a porcupine but with a long cute nose) Crossing the road… I had never seen cacatoès freely into nature. We saw them again in our camping spot with lots of other beautiful and colourful birds.
The following day, we left to visit the Erskine Falls. Amazing first time into the Australian forest with its beautiful high eucalyptus and firn trees (pictures by Alex with his recently discovered ghost effect).
We went then for another walk a little longer to watch another cascade but ended up taking the wrong way. It wasn’t a problem as this walk was also very beautiful. Just before entering it though, we saw lots of beautiful birds and as I wanted to go pee in the bush, I saw a black snake that left right away… good reminder that it is Australia and not New Zealand anymore! and that it is better to go to a real bathroom if you ever need to pee…
Another beautiful ghost effect picture by Alex:
We left then to Kennett river to watch the wild koalas that enjoy eating eucalyptus leaves above a beautiful camping with lots and lots of beautiful birds!! It was definitely one of our highlights in our great ocean road trip. Here are two beautiful koala pictures done with Alex’s new acquired zoom:
This camping was twice the price of other camping places so we took the road to find another one that was much more reasonable and with a beautiful view on the river with also lots of good looking birds and cows.
The next day, we went to Cape Otway Lighthouse at one of the tip of the South Australian coast, reminding me of the lighthouse seen at the tip of the New Zealand North coast!
It was worth the visit. However, we were a bit disappointed about the Aboriginal Hut which was guided by an Australian guy who did not seem to know much… I hope to fall on a more authentic aboriginal place and to be able to know more about this precious culture…
We then left to walk a last time in another beautiful forest with huge fallen trees and interesting moss on trees, were glow worms can be seen at night (which we didn’t see).
Pic from my love:
The last stop was the most breathtaking and also most expected one for Alex (not for me as I had decided to let myself surprise and not learn too much about the sites we were about to discover).
This most famous site of the great ocean road is as you might have heard, the 12 apostles which apostles only exist 9 of them as the 3 others have been completely eroded and fallen into the sea.
I was surprised at how many tourists (not to talk about how many flies) were there. I soon understood why though when we got to the first most famous site.
The following stops on the coast were to my sense as breathtaking as the first one. I’ll let you judge by yourself. There are about a dozen stops with beautiful views of the apostles. However, we stopped at about 5 or 6 as we needed to go back to Melbourne the following morning. Those were nevertheless enough to fill our eyes and head of marvellous memories.
Here is Alex making friends again with the countless flies:
As we left the great ocean road, our van was running out of gas. We had seen a few gas stations on Google map, but the two next on the road were closed… Plus I needed to go to the bathroom badly. Three boys were playing next to the second closed gas station and asked us whether we needed a hand. They told us were the next gas station was as well as the closest bathroom without problem. Those three boys were adorable and we felt very grateful to have met them on our way.
After finally having found gas, we settled ourselves in a camping up a hill that surrounded beautiful lakes. We had diner in front of a peaceful field with other cows watching us.
“Petits pois aux oeufs” dish – second chapter:
We then left early the following morning to drop off our wicked camper van in Melbourne closing at 12 pm as it was already December 24th (Australian celebrate Christmas the night of the 25th though).
We had some sushi in Melbourne and got back to our Airbnb to take a shower and go celebrate Chrismaka (Christmas and the first day of Hanouka) in the delicious restaurant Cumulus Inc recommended by Lonely planet. On the way to the city, we missed the stop and had to wait and hour to take the train back to were we wanted. Fortunately enough, we arrived without knowing 4 minutes before the restaurant closed the orders! We also went out of the metro station falling on a beautiful sunset!
At the Cumulus Inc, we took the surprise menu and were not disappointed at all about it! Quite on the contrary!!! Here is what the menu looked liked:
Absolutely delicious from start to end!
We then left for a few drinks – hugos and Mojitos with funny barmen – along the Yarra river having a really good time. We still had to put an end to it as our flight the following morning to the Whitsundays islands was at 8:45 am.
We did not sleep much and we’re quite tired when we arrived on the Hamilton Islands. But when we got out of the plane, we were on another planet, another paradise on earth…
We visited the island taking the free buses available and went for an amazing swim on the turquoise water beach of the Hamilton Island were rays and turtles can be observed while snorkeling.
One of the only restautants available on the island was a Christmas buffet of 120.- dollars which seemed quite good but not in the budget we had planned for an average lunch. So we went for a fish and chips which was great too and left at 5pm by boat to Airlie beach.
Here are two pictures of two Italian tourists which “followed us” from the airport to Airlie beach and who had quiet interesting haircut we thought.
Airlie beach would be our home based for the 4 next nights including a 2 days cruise in the Whitsundays islands.
We are currently staying at Bush Village Resort which is a nice and quite place. I consider us very lucky to have found this place quite last minute as everything is completely booked at this period of the year…
Tomorrow is chill day. In other words: doing NOTHING! Cannot wait haha!
We are however so grateful for having the luxury to visit such heavenly places! Thank you!!!
Our chilling day was fabulous. We went to town to check in for our cruise of the following day and had a big shrimp snack in front of the turquoise colored sea. I also took a few pictures of flowers that were stunning I thought.
We then took the bus to the supermarket next to our hotel (the bush village cabin) and made ourselves a huge late brunch at 3pm. Delicious spinach and mushrooms scramble eggs with a spinach, tomato and cucumber salad. We then relaxed on the hammocks of the swimming pool, reading and looking at the beautiful parrots, eagle and other birds flying around.
We left then for a beautiful run along the beach and were surprised at how early the sun sets in here compared to the south of Australia. It was good to eat well, do some exercice, yoga and meditation after such an intense week of travelling.
Coming back for our run we made ourselves another delicious meal with huge shrimps as well as smaller ones with a sauté of zucchini and eggplant.
We were not really hungry to be honest but the shrimps let themselves eat very easily. We fell asleep rather quickly as we were pretty tired from this day of “doing nothing” to get plenty of energy before our 2 days cruise starting at 8am.
In the morning, we ate a good breakfast made of porridge, banana, grains and other dry fruit while admiring a couple of adorable colibris that were making their nest on the hanging wire in front of our room. we decided to enjoy the moment fully rather than go take the camera and alter this magic moment.
We then left our suitcases at the reception and arrived on time to meet our group for the 2 following days. Fortunately, the cruise we had reserved was composed of people more or less our age, including lots of couples. This to say that it was not a crowd of teenagers who only wanted to party and drink, which was a huge relief (when we were in the process of booking the cruise, the only one I had found available was a cruise called “Spank me”… thanks to Alex who searched a little more, we found this cruise which was exactly what we needed).
The Siska sailing boat was beautiful and made up of a team of three people, Jamie being the fun guy of the team constantly making jokes and being very interesting. We were 24 people in total and it was I think the right number to not feel too crowded.
We left then for the Hayman island (Blue Pearl Bay) to do some scuba diving in the coral reef which was our first accounter with this breathtaking under water world. Beautiful parrots fish, corals of yellow and orange colours, gorgeous big purple shells which looked like a huge mouth that would close up when you would come closer.
The only downsize was to realize that even after being very careful at not touching the coral or disturbing the marine life, an unvolontary movement of a fin would make you cut a piece of coral which could have taken many years to grow… I am sad to admit this happened to me (as well as to our guide I saw). As beautiful as it was, there were also large zones of dead corals that looked like a cemetery… Lot is being done to protect this stunning wonder of the oceans. But higher temperature due to global warming and the increase level of CO2 are unfortunately slowly destroying this beautiful place… (not to talk about many Chinese tourists who think they can freely walk on corals when wearing fins and damaging those as a consequence).
We then left to Hook island (in Cave Cone) to go snorkeling again. Not having fins this time, I again accidentally hit the coral which this time did not break but made a big rash on the top of my foot which is now slowly healing. It didn’t prevent me though from enjoying this beautiful place, letting curious colourful fish play around myself or watching a majestic see turtle swim calmly.
We headed then to Hook passage to put the anchor at the end to spend the night there. On the way, Alex and I laid in the two hammocks to read which with the high waves made it very difficult to stay stable. It became very funny at some point as the hammocks were dangerously pushing us towards the sea. We had a huge laugh thinking about falling. The situation was just very funny.
We had a spaghetti diner which we had to eat inside as the rain was starting to pour quiet strongly. Even when there wasn’t any rain, trying to eat your salad with such a strong wind was useless as everything would fly away…
We had a double bed just below a window and were excited to have some fresh air as having 24 people sleeping inside a small sailing boat in not necessarily the most refreshing thing… However, the rain made it a little more difficult to open the window. This, adding the wonderful noise (not to say smell) of the bathroom next to our bed made our night a very interesting experience…
We were happy to have chosen a one night cruise and not a two nights one…
The following day, instead of leaving at 8am as Jamie had said, we left at 7am to avoid another huge cloud coming with rain… it was a really good move! we headed to one of the most beautiful heavenly spot on the planet which is called Whitehaven beach with 98,9 % of silicate, which means a white sand beach with turquoise water everywhere.
It was a very touristy place, but as we came pretty early, there were a bit less people on the site. We first stopped in small beach to cross the island inside the forest which led to a viewpoint with a breathtaking view on the beautiful Whitehaven beach.
Inside the forest Alex spotted a huge black and yellow spider…
Arriving at the beach, two people from our group who were already in the water told us to come closer to watch beautiful little baby sharks that had been given birth in this calm water.
We stayed there 2,5 hours which was great to get the feel of the place. I forgot to say that to swim in the water of this area of the world, you need to put a wetsuit in order to protect yourself from jellyfish. Those wetsuits also protect you from sunburns.
We were very lucky to have come earlier as 2 hours later, rain started to pour and tourists to leave. We gad taken stunning pictures of this place and left with great memories of it.
We then returned to our beautiful Siska boat which can be seen behind in red,
where we ate our last meal with the group and headed towards Airlie beach. The way back to the beach was absolutely beautiful and gave lots of room for reflecting about this trip and other things. The sails were set and with the strong winds, the boat was bending very strongly which made us feel very excited and alive. I was also reading the book “Instincts” from Sarah Marquis talking about this Swiss woman walking kms in the desert of West Australia. It was exactly what I needed to read.
Back to town, we said bye to everyone and the amazing crew membres, and headed to our first hotel to take our suitcases, get a shot of Internet that we hadn’t had for 2 days and finally go to our airbnb which would be our last night in this heavily place.
The airbnb was hard to find for the taxi driver, but you can trust Google 100%. Having texted Ouzi our host, that we couldn’t find the place, his adorable daughter came to pick us up. The house, a very simple one enhanced by Ouzi himself was hidden behind a few trees. The place was very charming and it only took minutes to discover that my host and I came from the same background. He invited us for barbecue and invited other guests and friends. It was a lovely night together which was closed by lightning the 5th candle of Hanouka (first hanouka for Alex).
Ouzi made us feel like at home and we were sad to leave so quickly after knowing him and his family for such a short amount of time. It seemed we had known each other for so much longer. I hope to see them in Swizterland sometime…
Ouzi brought us to the airport the following morning with his daughter and the dog Bella. He didn’t want to accept anything in return, which enhanced our feeling of gratitude even more towards this beautiful person. On the way we saw our first kangourous with Alex which is for Ouzi and his daughter similar as seeing a streetcat…
We then left the Proserpine airport to fly to Brisbane which would be our stopover before taking a our next van towards the sunshine and golden coast. After having settled in our new airbnb we left for the south bank for Indian food at the Panjabi Palace. We then had a nice walk next to the river which led to a beautiful forest walk leading to an open swimming pool similar as one we had seen in Airlie Beach. In my book I am reading about baobabs and how its baby shoots can be dug out of the ground and eaten. I wanted to see those trees so badly but was aware that they only existed in Western Australia, Africa and Madagascar. I had talked Alex about my desire to see those trees and a few minutes later what wasn’t my surprise to see two beautiful baobabs ! I just had a few seconds to observe them as we had to run to take the last train to our place.
The following morning December 30th, we took our hippie camper van (which company I won’t recomend as they try to get any possible peny from you) to head towards the sunshine coast up North of Brisbane. We ended up in Noosa, very busy but nice little town where lots of Australian tourists come to enjoy the sea and the sun. We left our car further away in-between the bay and the sea inside the forest and went for a walk along the sea and downtown. There were nice treks to do in the Noosa national parks that we decided we would do the following day. In the meanwhile, we came back to our car next to which we did a wonderful bbq as in Australian parks (at least from the East coast) very simple ready to use bbqs are provided for people to cook their meal.
We then left to find a place to sleep and as we knew the camping spot were already quiet full, we left for a green area around Noosa. However, as soon as we tried to settle our stuff in the van, I fell on a white spider and we left RIGHT AWAY to find a camping. So we came back to Noosa and fortunately found a camping spot which was supposed to be full. We were very lucky. The sunshine knocked at our windows at 5:30 in the morning and we left ASAP for the same dining spot as the day before to have breakfast with pancakes in front of the bay. Beforehand though, we (maybe I) forgot to close the back door of the van and at the next roundabout we hear a huge noise with a huge honk and next thing we know we see in the mirror that my suitcase and some Alex’s stuff fell off the van. We put ourselves on the side of the road and when we come back, there’s an Australian guy standing next to our stuff on the sidewalk with a huge nice smile, wishing us a happy new year!!!
We were not expecting such reaction at all! Since the start of our trip Australian people were all so friendly!! From the Stuart in the airplane going to the Hamilton Island to the lady selling us shrimps at the supermarket or people at the information centers, Australian seem in general very happy!
We then went for a 3-4 hour trek in the Noosa national park, meeting a koala on the way and a beautiful beach spot where we were nearly the only ones enjoying.
Here is the difference of popularity with Noosa beach.
We came back through the woods which was a great way to discover the flora and fauna of the Sunshine coast region.
See below a goanna – famous also in the Disney movie Rescuers Down Under – Bernard et Bianca au pays des kangourous in French:
We then left for a 4 star camping (the only camping with spots available in the region – we had however the privilege to have a private bathroom) to spend New Year’s Eve.
We made ourselves a delicious vegetable curry with rice and were too exhausted from the day to go see the fireworks at midnight so we went to bed early. We had the whole following day though wishing happy new year to friends and family members who had new year’s Eve at different times after the Australian East time.
We drove then to the Australian Zoo created by famous Steve Irwin who was an amazing crocodile hunter who died from a stingray attack. It was one of the most amazing zoo we had ever visited! We were able to pet kangaroos and koalas, to see so many other animals exclusive to Australia such as wombats, cassowaries, dingos, crocodiles, snakes, spiders, lots of beautiful birds and many others, as well as others from Asia and Africa.
A cassowary (an endangered species):
Black neck stork:
A cockatoo (cacatoès in French):
A nice little wombat who got his food stollen by the mischievous lizard below.
Here are some Asian animals starting with the lemurs:
A red panda:
To finish with a few African animals:
We spent a wonderful day (one of the warmest – maybe 35 degrees) and ended it up in the swimming pool of our camping site 5 minutes away from the zoo (where we got the last spot!).
The following day, I woke up with my injured foot (from the corals) swollen and I had the feeling it was not going to stop. So we are a very quick breakfast and sped to the closest pharmacy. However, because it was December 2nd which is a national holiday in Australia, we had go to three different pharmacy before finding one open. They advised us to go see a doctor which I didn’t opposed myself to… (I normally avoid going to doctors as much as possible, but I didn’t have the choice this time as I had no clue how my body could react to a wound made by yellow corals…). To heal my wound I knew the best thing to apply would be honey. I wasn’t sure whether pharmacists would even know about it and was already discouraged from this thought… I was wishing people could advise me wisely taking information from both traditional and classic medicine. The pharmacist advised me lots of different healing creams and antiseptics. When I asked her whether she knew about honey having both those properties, she said of course and gave me a very powerful and known Australian honey called Manuka honey. I was quiet surprised that this product was actually at the counter and it showed on it that university studies had proven its efficiency. I couldn’t ask for better…
There was a hospital next to the pharmacy, so after buying some ice at the closest supermarket, we went to the emergency services, but we’re told the word be no less than 700.- AUD. They redirected us to a smaller medical center were I was able to get some antibiotics prescription. We were set and could finally continue our trip. We left for a camping inside of the lands (which was the only one with available space) and as soon as we arrived, just after having plugged the electricity to the van, a heavy rain started to pour. For information, this part of Australia is referred as as “draught zone”. Everyone was very surprised about this rain, but nature was I’m sure very happy about it. For myself, I had to gather lots of self control as we were stuck in a van with a swollen foot and a terrible need to urinate during the whole night. What gave me some courage though is to relate to Sarah Marquis in her book “Instincts” which talks about this Swiss woman walking alone in the Australian bush and facing unbelievable situations… Trust is the only way out… She helped me to ponder my situation in relation to hers when she had to take antibiotics after having a tremendous pain not knowing what it was in a pitiless desert full of crocodiles…
The following morning, we left for surfer paradise and had a little visit around the place. It was quiet touristy and too much of a town environment for without a great atmosphere.
So we left to Byron Bay which was much more welcoming and decided to stay there two nights.
As we just arrived, I was unable to walk so we drove to the lighthouse which gave a breathtaking view on the Pacific ocean as well as from the most Eastern point of Australia.
Lots of surfers could be seen from afar, which made Alex very excited as he was dying to surf again.
Our camping site for the two following nights was one of the best one we went to. Lots of birds and nature around us and people from our age (in the gold coast – compared to the sunshine coast where we were in Byron Bay, there is an older population or families with young kids).
In the first morning, we went for an hour walk in a handcraft market next to the beach which was very pleasant to visit. We then left to spend lunch and beginning of afternoon in the shade of the trees next to the swimming pool as my foot did not allow me to walk too far yet.
We then went to the Beach (the Pass) which is a breathtaking place where slow and super long waves are breaking. A good swim with saltwater was perfect to help heal my foot.
We had then an amazing bbq with lots of delicious shrimps which made people from the camping quite jealous!
The following morning, we went for breakfast in another market, a food one this time which products were also very good and healthy. I had an amazing cereal fruit bowl with dragon fruit frozen juice and Alex a delicious burger.
We met a guy from the Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne who had decided to begin a new life in Byron Bay starting with his partner a business of delicious healthy vegetable wraps called Mumma Raw that I greatly recommend.
As we finished our breakfast and buying a few organic vegetables for our next meals (including a whole bucket of basilica to make pasta al pesto), it started to pour rain. So, we left to take our van and went in a nice little café in the centre of Byron Bay to plan the rest of our trip.
Through a few recommendations of Alex’s friends on where to find the best surf spots, we headed to Lenox head where Alex rented a surf and enjoyed a few waves.
The waves were not at their best, but we still had a good time. We then left to Coffs Harbour, which was midway before a few other interesting surf spots. There were rabbits and ducks all around the camping which made it very attractive to children and to myself.
As soon as we had finished preparing diner (a nice tomato sauce pasta) we were immediately welcomed by rain which stayed until the following morning.
So instead of eating breakfast under the rain, we decided to go shelter in this lifesaving, very cozy café: The Artisti Café that we both greatly recommend. It was also a relief to be able to spend some time on the internet with a high quality wifi, updating my blog and reconnecting with the world.
We then left in the direction of Old bar, a good surf spot, but stopped at Manning point which is a few kms away from it as it was already getting late and most camping sites close at around 5pm. It was an interesting camping as everybody knew each other and as soon as we arrived everybody came to us asking where we came from and whether we wanted to share a few biers with them. We were not so much in the mood and staying sitted again as we had just arrived in a spot which was surrounded by a bay from one site and the see from the other. So we slipped away and left to the beach were we could later admire the beautiful sky full of stars. We made ourselves another amazing barbecue with lamb and vegetables. The following morning, the rain greeted us again… we made ourselves a delicious breakfast in the sheltered bbq area and left to Old bar.
Unfortunately, there were no interesting waves in Old bar. However, there was a beautiful National park that we went to visit and which was interesting to me especially. Indeed, I was craving to know more about the aboriginal culture from the beginning of our trip and had not found any aboriginal people to talk to yet. We soon realised that in this Nature reserve was allocated a camping that was reserved to aboriginal people only. I found that strange as it felt a bit like a strange separation between aboriginal people and white people. However, I think, if I understood well, as aboriginal people were taken all their land by white people when they came in Australia, as soon as they were given it back in small bits, they made it private to them, as this was so precious to them. So in a sense, I think I can understand why they would like to have such exclusive camping places…
We left for a walk in the Khappinghat national park, also called Saltwater reserve, which was a beautiful walk under the trees. We got lost at some point thinking that the path was a loop, but it was not. We however found a nice goanna that always happen to make us laugh a lot (after having seen the Disney movie Rescuers Down Under).
Here is a grandfather fishing with his two little grandsons.
I was dying of talking to aboriginal people and before we left, I could not resist to have a chat with a father and his family who were about to enter their car in order to know a little more about the story of this camping. The father who was my age told me he had always spent summers in this place with all his family members as far as he could recall. That was all I could get. But just the interaction meant a lot to me…
We then left to Forster (without eating lunch yet). There was nothing too interesting about this town. What was interesting though were the three beaches below Forster: Elizabeth beach, Boomerang beach and Blueys beach as well as Seal Rocks a little further. Alex fell in love with Boomerang beach. So we had to find a surf board… There was none in Boomerang beach and after asking a surf shop (with more surf clothes than surf boards), they told us we would certainly find one back in Forster (20km away). It was a little annoying considering we would have to drive 80 kms (2 returns) to get a surf board if we happened to find one in Forster. But we still went to Forster as we did not have any clue about where to find a surf board elsewhere. Unfortunately, when we arrived there, all the surf shops had only surf clothes and no surf board to rent… Damnation… So I decided to use all my creative energy to find this board as I got the sense that our trip would not be as fun without it (I knew it was very important for Alex, and I did not want him to be disappointed about it). So I made an extensive search on Google maps finding all the shops or related places which had the keyword surf in it. Lots of them had nothing to do with surfboard, but we still tried calling them. We finally called a guy who had no surf board to rent, but as we asked him whether he knew were we could find one, he gave us a phone number of a guy who lived in Boomerang beach and who could maybe help us… We called this guy and he told Alex he had a surf board to rent him, although it was a beginner one. It was not the time to become picky, we left right away and 20 kms later we were back where we were earlier and finally rented this surf board in a private house with this nice guy with two big handsome dogs (who helped me get some energy after petting them both).
So after having found the board, we left to find a camping site this time… We found one fortunately easily enough and not too far away from Boomerang beach. But as soon as I came out of the van, I collapsed…
We had a few sardine sandwiches to kill our terrible hunger (or should I say mine) and left right away to Boomerang beach to finally enjoy the beach!!! Here is Alex happy with his surfboard.
Myself just after having found this surf suit to have some private surf lessons with Alex. However, my foot did not allow me to spend too much time learning, but I would love to try it again next time.
Next to where I was sitting, there was a nice lady who was also looking at her boyfriend surfing. Soon after came from nowhere this adorable goat that had taken the woman in the back as her Mom and was following her everywhere. They were feeding it with a baby bottle which was the most adorable thing ever.