The adventure on K'Gari was over, but there wasnt much time to relax. I had booked a sailing trip around the Whitsunday Islands for the 28th February - only one full day ahead. Lena and I had not much time to cover the distance from Noosa Heads to Airlie Beach from where the sail boat would leave. That meant heaps and heaps of driving...
Thankfully, we were two people. Taking turns of driving was more than helpful but also necessary as there wasnt anything of significance along the way to keep us awake. Yet, we came upon a couple of street signs at the side of the road which invited drivers to stay awake and play a game of Trivia. It only entertained us for a little while though.
For the whole drive up to Airlie Beach, we only stopped for the occasional break,food or to spend the night sleeping in our tents at the side of the road. The highlight we experienced was near Bundaberg - Mon Repos.
At Mon Repos where we arrived after midnight, we were part of something truly breathtaking... On the beach, we encountered dozens of turtle hatchlings which tried to reach the ocean with an enormous effort.
A group of people approached us who were volunteers for a turtle museum located right at the beach. They were counting eggs, marking nests and helping the hatchlings reach the ocean. Apparently, we werent suppose to be on the beach during the night, but since we were already there they showed us their work and told us more about the turtles. Like when the best season is to see them which is November to March. In the end ,we were happy we stopped at Mon Repos in the middle of the night to see turtles hatch.
According to Aboriginal legend, when humans were created and needed a place to live, the mighty god Beiral sent his messenger Yendingie with the goddess K’gari down from heaven to create the land and mountains, rivers and sea. K’gari fell in love with the earth’s beauty and did not want to leave it. So Yendingie changed her into a heavenly island – K'Gari.
This is where I would live and work for the upcoming weeks. Dropbear Adventures was looking for volunteers to help out on the island and here we are now. Lena and I were excited what the upcoming weeks would bring. Living on an island in the Dropbear Beachcamp Retreat with electricity from solar panels and no shoes. And as it turned out, for the whole time I really didn't wear any shoes.
From the Dropbear office in Noosa Heads we joined the next group to go on K'Gari. Craig was their guide and told us quickly how we can help. The Dropbear 4x4 trucks (all have a name, my favorite: the Hulk) were a good change to my small Toyota and the drive to ferry which would bring us onto the island went by quickly. Also, because there were great people inside the truck I drove.
DJ Karl from Sweden who was responsible for good music, photographer Steffi from Switzerland who took good shots and the rest of the truck sang or just enjoyed the ride to the ferry. The ferry ride itself only took a few minutes and it dropped us off directly on the western beach of K'Gari.
Continuing on inland tracks, we made our way to the eastern side of the island and drove the last part to the Dropbear Beach Camp Retreat on the beach. 80km/h on the sand was definitely fun to drive on.
The Beachcamp is an eco retreat which is run by solar panels and provides a more glamorous camping experience (glamping). It is for the non-campers who still would like to experience the beauty of K'Gari without sleeping in a camp. However, it wasn't finished yet which why we were there to help out with and complete it. The group was heading further to the Dropbear campsite which was only a few minutes further north the beach. We just stopped to provide the current volunteers and workers from Dropbear with food and supplies. After we helped Craig with the group we would join them to live a simple life on K'Gari.
We arrived at the camp and Craig (next to the trucks) and Ollie the camp manager welcomed everyone to their new homes for three days. Even though it is "just" camping, there are hot showers and toilets provided. Real campers use the ocean for a shower and a shovel and bush for a toilet Ollie explained the rules we lived by at camp, like leaving nothing behind and being respectful to nature.
This quote can also be found at the Retreat to remind us every day on what a precious planet we live. Another rule was, to leave nothing and by that we really mean nothing inside your tent but your sleeping bag. The reason: wild dogs, called Dingoes, live on K'Gari and are very curious animals. But also dangerous as they have and will attack humans. Therefore, the punishment for someone who left something in the tent was to eat a spoon of Vegemite. And believe me, you dont want to eat that. :D
Back at the Retreat, we met the rest of the crew: Kym (inside the car), Jacqui, Hanna, Mark and Rachel. Mark and Hanna own Dropbear and live on the island as well, Rachel is the retreat manager and Kym and Jacky were volunteers like us. We all talked for a while before heading straight to work. Our job was to help getting the retreat ready for the guests. In the future, there would be two tours at the same time on the island. Both groups are doing the same tour, only stay either at the Retreat in beds with more comfort or in tents at the campsite. Until the opening, there was much to do as you can see. For the times we didnt have to work, we had heaps of hammocks to relax in and even a private pool.
Jacqui, Lena, Kym and I wanted to walk to camp that evening. On our way, we were spectators of K'Gari's beauty, as the sky was showing itself over the island in its best colors. We also found one of the reasons why you werent suppose to go in the ocean: a venomous jelly fish.
Half way to camp, Jacqui and Lena decided it was too far so Kym and I strolled along alone. Always accompanied by our "DIngo-sticks". For safety, once you leave the safe fenced areas where most of the houses are, you should carry a stick with you. When a Dingo comes towards you, you should just stay your ground and especially not scream or run. That just awakens their hunting instinct. When they get too close, use your stick. No Dingoes were in sight that evening and Kym and I joined the group at camp for their first night. Usually, that is always a big party. And we were not disappointed.
Two more volunteers, Margo and Valentine from France, were working and staying at camp for a couple of days and told me a bit what I could expect. The group enjoyed the steaks and veggies of the BBQ heaps, but Kym and I were lucky to get some leftovers as a second dinner. We couldnt stay the night, so we walked back on the beach late night. Looking out paranoid for Dingoes ( I blame the alcohol ). At the Retreat, we hung out with the rest of the Dropbear crew and enjoyed to be on this beautiful island. Excited and thinking about the upcoming weeks, I found some sleep in the "Dungeon". The volunteers small, dark room underneat the Retreat.
Woke up, unexpectedly well rested, had a short walk on the beach, did my morning workout and had a shower. The solar panels didn't have enough power stored yet so it was more of a dribble than a real shower. The crew of us volunteers gathered for breakfast in the common room and we discussed what had to be done that day. The first task was removing mold stains on the dorm tents caused by salty sea air. The chemicals we used made my whole body itch and stung in my eyes and lung. Not something I hoped to do every day. Next, it was to Kym and me to do some gardening. The sand patches around the retreat had to be filled with good soil and we also planted some grass to help the areas recover.
Around 3 o'clock we were done for the day and headed to the beach. We tried to catch some beach worms but werent too lucky that day. Worming isnt easy, but Mark who grew up on K'Gari knew very well how to catch these 1m long worms.
You use some small pieces of meat and slide it over the sand, in front of the waves were the beach is still a little wet. If you're lucky, small white worm heads will pop out and come for the meat. When they nibble on it, that's when you grab and pull. Sounds easy. Unfortunately, none of us could catch one that day. Later on, Kym and I went to a locals house who Kym met the other day. His name is Lucky. And he couldn't have been more of an islander. The rough weather left its marks on him, the sun couldn't have made him any tanner and when he didn't go worming for his living, he sat on his porch across the front gate of Eurong, the nearest village and enjoyed his beer.
His family has been living on the island for generations, though he is not an Aboriginal. He told Kym and me stories we would have never heard from any guide and happily accepted one beer after another. His current hobby was collecting buoys on the beach and hang them on his tree.
Late evening, we walked back to the Retreat over the beach always looking out for Dingos. Lucky had invited us over any time we wanted. I was quite sure we would walk over to his house again and see him sitting on the porch, enjoying his beer.
Got up earlier than usual, because we hoped to be done earlier this way. So the theory. Reality looked like a long day. More cleaning had to be done and we all got right onto it. The tents were driving all of us crazy. Today, another volunteer joined us, his name is Carlos from Italy. His English was not good at all, but he was very eager to learn. All he could say was basic small talk. But he was a polite and nice guy. Ollie and Rachel left today for a concert on the mainland, so Kym was responsible for camp the next days and took me with him. In the evening, we finished up dinner and then started a fire at our fire place.
Watched the millions of stars in the sky, shared stories and let the night take us away... Oh, we found some Dropbear-onesies and had some fun making fools of ourselves. Kym was also really happy about his new tattoo Jacqui, Lena and I drew him.
Early wake up again, repaired some tents, took the bins out with our 4x4 and then had the afternoon off. That day, someone had left something in the tent and what happened was, a Dingo came during the night and ripped it open, pulled out the bag and spread out the content all over the ground.
Mark had called a friend on the island who owns an island taxi company and he took us to Lake Wabby. Lake Wabby is the deepest lake on Fraser Island and is also a unique body of water - it is the only barrage lake on Fraser Island and is also a window lake. A barrage lake is formed when the wind carries sand across the island, the sand forms a bank that then dams an already existing creek or stream. Window lakes, on the other hand, are formed by a natural depression or valley in the sand exposing the water table. Being a barrage lake, the giant sand dune that borders Lake Wabby’s emerald green waters will eventually move into the lake and occupy its waters. In a century or so, the sand dune’s unstoppable march westward across Fraser Island will see it completely swallow the lake.
From the carpark located on the beach Margot, Valentin, Lena and I walked about 30-40 minutes through a sub-tropical rainforest to get to the lake. We jumped from the sand dune into the lake and were immediately surrounded by thousands tiny fish which started eating old skin on our feet and legs. A free spa by mother nature. Valentine said I wouldnt dare to eat one and she shouldn't have said that, because half an hour later (they are f#*king hard to catch) I caught one and ate it alive. For a minute I thought I could feel it moving inside my stomach. We all were pretty tired from all the work of the last days and took a nap on the sand dune. On our way back, we had to wait a while for Hanna to pick us up from the car park so we spend our time with drawing giant things in the sand and the others had to guess what it is. Margot also dared to fight me with a stick so we had a sword fight. Simple life on the island. Happy to have seen some more of the beauty K'Gari has to offer.
Slept in til 7. Worked a bit inside and outside of the Retreat before Kym called me over. We had to start a rescue mission. A family got stuck at Lake McKenzie with their rental car and the owner is a friend of Marks, so therefore he called us to go and get them out of there. Kinda happy, because now I got away from cleaning and doing housekeeping at the Retreat. Unfortunately, our work truck broke down...
So we took one of the group 4x4 trucks. The truck, called 'The Hulk', didn't care about any soft sand or obstacle we came upon during the 45 minutes drive over inland tracks to get to Lake McKenzie. He got through anything. At Dropbear Adventures, all 4x4 trucks have a name. To name some: Hulk, Silver Surfer and Papa Bear. The stranded family we were rescuing, had a dead battery. A kick start didn't work, so we drove them back to their hotel and the car had to be pulled another day. Back at the Retreat, Simen, one of the tour guides, told us to chill tonight and he would do the work. He didn't have to say that twice as we were all happy to have some rest. Had some goon and beers with the guests and the other volunteers, gazed at the stars and had a fire.
Carlo's English got better and better in such short time. Every night he sat down, reviewed the new words he learned during the day and wrote them in a little notebook. We were all really impressed by this. Also, we happily welcomed Daisy as a new member of our Dropbear-family. Some of us drove to camp to get everything ready for the next group. When you drive on the beach, you always have to watch out for dangerous washouts. They occur quite often and were sometimes fatal for some cars.
While waiting for them, we started chopping their lunch. Carlo, being either Italian or just a good chef, chopped like no one of us could. They still didn't arrive. Well, we started preparing dinner then. Eventually, they made it to the camp and had their lunch. For dinner, we needed heaps of water for tea, drinking water, the camp showers and dishwashing. There are two possible ways to get water for camp - drive all the way back to the Retreat or drive a short way to a police station where fresh water is available. Kym and I decided to take the short way and drove to the police station. The water station was down a path a little away from the station though - pretty much right behind the dunes in the forest. It was pitch black and we were scared as fuck that a pack of Dingoes would surprise us. I need to say that we might already had a couple beers. After we ran back to our truck like a bunch of idiots, we made it safely back to the camp with the water and enjoyed the rest of the night with the new group. Dropbear jumbo version of Jenga
Back at the Retreat we saw Jacqui chatting to a couple from London. Their plan was to walk to Lake McKenzie (22km) and camp there... we laughed a little when we heard that. It was not only dangerous with the Dingoes, venomous spiders and snakes but also was it a crazy long walk to do wanting starting late afternoon. We all enjoyed the company and shared travel stories and talked about the life on the island.
Ollie and Rachel got back from the concert. Ollie took some of the volunteers to camp to prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner. For the first time I slept at camp that night. It was heaps of fun: playing drunk Jenga, peeing in the sea to lighten up the plankton inside, moonwalk on the beach and checking out the Milky Way and more stars than I've ever seen. One thing we noticed that night: the announced cyclone was coming closer as the wind picked up. Cyclone Marcia was coming...
K'Gari was getting evacuated! We had one group left on the island and after a half-day tour they had to leave the island. The cyclone 'Marcia' got upgraded to category 4 out of 5 and was heading directly towards us... (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyclone_Marcia) That's why the government decided to evacuate all the tourists on the whole island, stop the ferry and close all inland tracks. The only people left on the island were the permanent residents and us volunteers. We had the choice though: stay or leave. We obviously decided to stay and experience this cyclone adventure. Valentin, Margot and Carlos rather left. They joined the last group leaving the island.
It was raining buckets and the wind grew stronger and stronger. It looked like these news when a reporter talks live about a storm and gets blown away. Luckily, we took down the day before when it was still sunny and secured everything.
The waves on the beach came all the way up to the dunes and made driving from camp to the Retreat not easy. Windows had to be secured with wooden boards or anything that keeps the wind off them so they don't break, everything inside had to be taken down, put away or locked up. To prevent the wind to blow away the rooms made out of big tents, we installed tin walls in front of them.
Then we waited...
Played some board games and just chilled until the cyclone would really hit us. Our food was limited now as we couldn't receive anything from the mainland. Still, Jacqui who cooks amazingly and was announced Dropbear-chef, managed to cook the best meals possible. We had leftover bbq, green curry and so many other things despite having only limited food, electricity and gas. For the night, we all found place inside the small 'Dungeon' where the volunteers slept. Some mattresses on the floor and everyone had a place to sleep. The rain got worse and Jacqui and I made sandbags out of pillow cases to prevent water to come down to the Dungeon. We wished we would have taken pictures that night, but we were a little busy securing the Retreat and our asses. The storm was now upgraded to category 5... 300km/h of winds. Australia's north-east coast got hit already and the cyclone destroyed houses, ripped out trees and left a trail of destruction. We went to bed hoping we wouldn't get hit during the night...
The sun came up and we expected the worst. Instead, the sky was blue, there was a light breeze and the birds sang their songs. It felt like nothing happened. What was going on? Did we miss something? We cleaned up whatever got blown away yesterday, broke or else and then checked on Rachel's laptop what was going on. Apparently, the cyclone went from the coast towards inland and got weaker. The forecast predicted it to get stronger though and come back to the coast. Yet for now, we enjoyed the nice weather and not having to work.
The Dropbear Family
Now it was over, the cyclone wouldn't hit us anymore. According to the information we had, the storm was suppose to head straight towards us from the North, but instead went inland and then came back out to on the ocean. Basically, it went exactly around us. The day was used to get the Retreat back to normal. While we did that, we saw a baby Brown snake. Brown snakes are in the top three of the most venomous snakes in the world. Baby ones are especially dangerous, as they can't decide on the correct amount of poison to use for an adult, Ollie told us. They just use their full poison and hence kill even quicker. We followed her path towards the bushes in front of the retreat where she disappeared. I was definitely not going anywhere close to these bushes in the upcoming days. Kym and I went to Lucky later on and spend the rest of the day talking to him and listen to his stories of the island.
Too much beer for someone
Over the duration of the next days, work mostly consisted of helping out the guides, cooking breakfast, lunch and dinner, keeping camp clean, and normal work like gardening and dump runs. Last, was something I enjoyed actually as I could drive our work 4x4 truck over the beach and through inland tracks to get to the dump station of the region.
===Day 17 & 18 - Tour===
My time on K'Gari was coming to an end. But finally, Lena and I got to enjoy the tour which we have been working for the last weeks. Dave was our guide. I couldn't have hoped for anyone better as it was always fun to work with him. To be fair, all the guides we met and worked with are awesome and everyone of them has their own touch added to the tour.
The tour would take us along the 75-Mile beach to our first stop, Eli Creek.
Eli Creek, aka Hangover creek, because most of the guests get hammered the first night as we experienced on our own in the beginning. A continuous flow of purified water bursts from K’gari’s underground reservoir and forms the ever-flowing Eli Creek. Its waters are considered one of the world’s purest, taking over 100 years to get filtered through the sand. We jumped in the crystal clear fresh water and immediately got woken up by the cold temperature. Dave told us, the best and only way to make your way towards the end of the creek was the crocodile walk. Meaning, laying on your belly and only having your eyes and nose out of the water. The stream carried us along up to the end where it meets with the ocean.
Further on to Indian Head. One of the most sacred place for the Butchlla people, K'Gari's indigenous people. It was used for gatherings, as a tribunal and just as a meeting point for the Butchlla people. Captain Cook first sighted the Butchulla people during 1770 and named Indian Head on the eastern beach after them as he saw heaps of 'Indians' standing on the headland. To that time, K'Gari was still known as Great Sandy Island - yes, Captain Cook wasnt the best creator of names.
Group Pic up on Indian Head
As we started to walk up to Indian Head, Dave taught us whenever we visit a spiritual place, we should rinse some sand through our hands and say that we acknowledge the place and promise to respect it. I was happy I to be with Dropbear as they teach a big part of the Butchlla culture as part of the tour. Dave told us some stories about Indian Head and the history of K'Gari. This is how it got the name Fraser Island:
In the year 1836, a wealthy sea captain from England named Captain James Fraser shipwrecked north of K'Gari at the Great Barrier Reef where he hit a reef. On board with him was his wife Eliza Fraser and 18 crew members and passengers. Transferring to two lifeboats, the crew set a course south, attempting to reach the settlement at Moreton (now Brisbane). During this trip, Captain Fraser's pregnant wife gave birth in the leaking lifeboat. The infant died soon after birth. The Captain's lifeboat was becoming more and more unseaworthy and was soon left behind by the other lifeboat which continued on. The sinking boat and its crew was beached on what was then known as the Great Sandy Island. Having been on sea in a tiny lifeboat, most of the survivors were sick, starving and close to dying of thirst. It was a group of Butchlla people who gave them shelter, food and helped with their wounds. However, Captain Fraser died soon after. She was rescued 6 weeks after being shipwrecked by a convict, John Graham, who had lived in the bush as an escapee, and who spoke the Aboriginal language. He was sent from the settlement at Moreton by the authorities there who had heard about Eliza's tragic situation. Without her husband and any of her belongings, she had to find a way to make money. She started to tell the story of how the Aboriginal people of K'Gari saved her and some other crew members from dying. But no one wanted to hear about them in a good way. Aboriginal people were hated and seen as animals that days. Therefore, Eliza Fraser started to change her story and told the people of how the Butchlla people brutally murdered her husband and ate other crew members. Now she was heard and within 6 months, Eliza had married another wealthy sea captain. She moved to England and became a sideshow attraction in Hyde Park telling ever more horrible tales about these horrifying people. In these stories, she called K'Gari Fraser Island and since then, the name was used. However, it is a dark reminder of a terrible time for the Butchlla people as after Eliza told her story, the Australian Government ordered to kill all indigenous people on K'gari. That's why I and everyone should use the Aboriginal name K'Gari - Paradise. source: Dave's story passed on from Butchlla people
Our next stop was Champagne Pools. It was used as a fishing spot by the Butchlla people. When the tide was high, all the water brought heaps of fish in and when the tide was low they were trapped. Pretty easy fishing. The soft sand on the way to the Pools made the inland tracks really tricky today and some of our 4x4's got almost stuck. Safely protected from the sea’s strong currents, we enjoyed K’gari’s natural Jacuzzi with the waves gently foaming over the rocks.
Champagne Pools was the most northern point on our tour and after we headed back south to the Pinnacles. Located 18 km south of Indian Head and a couple of kilometres north of the Maheno Shipwreck which was our next stop. The Pinnacles are one of the most amazing things on K'Gari that your eyes could marvel at as they are a spectacular array of multi-colored sand cliffs. The sand comes in rich and beautiful varieties of yellow, brown and orange cliffs shaped and sculpted over 700.000 years ago by nature’s most powerful elements: wind and water. It is a sacred place for the Butchlla women. There, they gathered and shared stories.
We did the sand rinsing ritual and checked them out. Dave told us the story of the Rainbow Spirit and how this place was created.
A young woman named Wuru who was promised to marry an older man, Winyer, but fell in love with Wiberigan, the Rainbow serpent. Wuru came to the beach every day to visit and be with Wiberigan. One day Winyer followed her and saw her on the beach with Wiberigan. He became jealous and was full of rage. He threw his boomerang at Wuru but Wiberigan protected her and took the blow. The Rainbow Serpent shattered into thousands of pieces which fell to earth coloring the cliffs. Wuru could escape and was unharmed. From then on, The Pinnacles colored sands became a place of good luck for the Butchulla women. source: Dave's story passed on from Butchlla people
Back in the trucks and stopped at the Moheno shipwreck. It sank 1935 and was a luxurious cruise ship up to WW1. For the duration of the war, it served as a hospital and saved many lives. After, it came back to Australia. It had become to old and the company who owned it tried to get rid of it. But who wanted to buy an old, military hospital ship? Eventually, the Japanese bought it. They sold everything of value including the engine and towed it up towards Japan. A storm, only recorded by Japanese instruments, ripped the tow line and the Moheno was free on the ocean. The lose ship landed on the shore of K'Gari where it lays since then. It is said that the Japanese cut the rope on purpose to spy on the Australian coast line in the time before WW2. No one knows for sure though. The Australian Government put a police officer in charge of the boat to prevent people from stealing off it. However, the officer was quite the alcoholic. Dave told us, one six-pack and you could take whatever your heart desires. Mark's, our bosses grandparents took this chance and took all the tiles off the ship and used them in their new house which was build very close to the ship wreck. The value of the house which is not bigger than a garage nowadays is said to be about 600.000$ now.
We left the Moheno behind us and headed back to Eli Creek. Between two trucks we set up a volleyball net and chilled for the rest of the day at the beach. At one point, a curious Dingo crept towards our group but was quickly chased away by Dave. He obviously doesnt need a stick.
Day two of our tour began and we drove to Lake McKenzie which I had visited briefly for a rescue mission. It is K’gari’s most famous and beautiful lake. K'Gari is home to 40 perched lakes and Lake McKenzie (Aboriginal name Lake Boorangoora) is the most famous and beautiful one. A perched lakes is unique, because its water doesnt come from streams or flows to the ocean, but is actually rainwater. Olivia Pozzan of BBC Travel offers probably one of the best descriptions of Lake McKenzie: “The water is a stunning vivid blue, and the pure-silica sand is soft underfoot. The sand is so fine it is ideal for skin exfoliation. The slightly acid water, from decaying plants, limits the viability of aquatic life but in no way affects the pleasure of a well-earned swim." Dave told us that the silica sand is great for your hair. So, we all ended up rubbing sand in our hair. And it actually made it really soft as we noticed a couple hours later.
The tour was coming to an end and as our last stop we drove to Central Station. Back in the days, K'Gari was mainly a logging station. Huge Santay trees were picked and cut down to get send to the mainland. They were brought to the coast by railroad tracks as the rainforest was too thick at most points. By the way, K'Gari is one of the two only places in the world where a rainforest grows on sand. It's amazing to see this fragile eco-system thrive in such an unlikely environment. We learned more about the history and came to a couple of railroad axes. The small ones only weigh around 70Kg, however the big one weighs massive 250Kg! Dave asked me whether I could deadlift it, even though I knew for sure it wouldnt move a bit. Together with my Danish friend we lifted the axle Dave deadlifted on his own.
After this competition, we went for a bush walk along Wanggoolba Creek. Staring up at the evergreen canopy, it is hard to understand how such a diverse rainforest can gain enough nutrients to survive on a bed of sand. The creek was and is now again a birthing place for indigenous women. Therefore, we practiced the sand rinse ritual - only with leafs this time.
From there, one part of the group which had to get back to Hervey Bay jumped in the trucks and Dave and I drove them safely to their ferry. It took us about 30 minutes and then we had to say good bye. The rest of the group waited at Central Station. Dave and I, now without guests in the back, pushed down the gas a little and made it back in 7 minutes :D All of us went back to the Retreat and got our stuff. Lena, Jacqui and I said good bye to our Dropbear-family and our island-life. The last couple of weeks were simple, yet amazing for me. All the beauty K'Gari has to offer I experienced and always had great company. Thanks to Kym, Jacqui, Ollie, Mark, Hanna, Rachel, Daisy, Lena, Valentine, Margot, Carlos and everyone who made my time on "Paradise" as awesome as it was.
Check out this little video about my time on K'Gari. I happily remember my time on the world's biggest sand island and my home on time.
Beginning of February. Lena and I were in Brisbane. Better said, in a suburb south of it. Our plan was to explore the city during the the next days. Hence, we had to find an accomondation. As we both didn't like going to hostels and rather save money, I searched couchsurfing for a place to stay for a few nights. We ended up with a dad of two boys about our age in an area 30min out of Brisbane CBD. Drove up their driveway and were strangely surprised: the whole house and garden was set up for backpackers. They had a pool, a gazebo, an outside bar, two bedrooms for backpackers in the house, one in the garage building and besides the two of us there were already three others having a little party by the pool. Including the two boys and their dad we were a big group of eight. It was almost like a small backpacker hostel. I loved it. Music blasting throughout the whole day, beers were emptied starting after breakfast and both of the two night we stayed we had a backpacker party.
The three others came from England and Sweden. The two Swedish girls showed us some aqua gymnastics the one night and we had a real proper training session. One evening, we went to the nearby golf court and played toad ball. Basically, it is a very brutal thing to do when you like animals. These toads though, came with ships from overseas and are not truly Aussie. They are venomous as well and kill heaps and heaps of pet such as dogs, cats and also wildlife. Aussies hate them to their guts. Therefore, they are free to kill. For this game you use a golf club, stun the toad by hitting it once, position it neatly and then hit it as far as possible. The weird thing - they were still jumping around even after we hit them with full power. These things just wouldn't die. So you do it again and again.
And then there was Brisbane. Firstly, we paid a fortune for public transportation to get in the city and secondly, once we were at the CBD we were amazed how empty a major city could be. There were genuinely only a handful of people walking on the sidewalk and not many cars driving on the streets between tall office buildings. We strolled around to find something cool or interesting to see and after a few hours we still couldn't find anything. Maybe if we would have given the city more time we would have liked it, but at that moment we agreed that we didn't need to see more of it. The next day we were heading north to Noosa Heads and the Swedish girls asked me whether we could take them a little further to Rainbow Beach. Of course we said yes and the next morning we all packed ourselves into the small car of mine and drove to Rainbow Beach. It is quite a small town but the hostel where we dropped off the two girls looked exotic and very nice. After lunch we did stop at a huge sand dune close by and spend some time there before we drove back south to Noosa Heads. it felt like standing in the middle of a desert. Lena wasn't feeling very well so we stopped at a hospital on the way. The first hospital visit on my travels and it is not because of me. Usually, I always end up in a hospital on my travels (my parents do remember immense bills from hospitals in the USA and Turkey).
We arrived late night in Noosa Heads and used a public water dispenser to brush our teeth and washing. Accomondation for that night was found in a remote neighborhood on the side of the road in my car. There wasn't much sleep anyway, as we had to be at our new job quite early the next morning. Looked forward to spend the next weeks on an island.
As we left Nimbin and Byron behind us, we headed to a place called Minyon Falls. The drive took us through semi-tropical rain forest and steep and windy roads. Remembering the last time my car had to drive uphill for a long time, I was a little concerned. The air con was on high and 30 degrees to get all the hot air away from the engine and we made it without overheating the engine. The Falls were quite small but over 100 meter high. A phenomenal view was presented to us.
Tweed Heads was out next stop where we watched hundreds of surfers catching big waves and performing tricks. I thought it was really funny how they created a line so they had to make their way to the front to catch a wave.
Surfers waiting in line for their turns
A Pool in front of the Ocean at Tweed Heads
The Wave swallows a Surfer
Surfer performing a trick
Skyline of Surfers Paradise
After, we went to get some food at drove to one of the many BBQ's which are everywhere. Lena had some chicken and I grilled 2kg of honey pork chops. The trip made me hungry :D One problem was the wind though. We had to hide behind the BBQ to eat without our food flying away. There was also an outdoor gym so I took the opportunity and did a workout.
Next thing on our list was to find a shower. We found a free and also warm shower in Surfers Paradise and drove up. We arrived at the showers and also found a lake and another outdoor gym. I was quite happy when I saw all that. I went for a swim, worked out for a little bit and had a nice hot shower. We saw other backpacker cars and thought why not stay the night here.
Park in Surfers Paradise where we stopped
So we got the car ready, talked with the other backpackers and got ready to sleep. All of the sudden two officers showed up though and told us when we get caught sleeping here we had to pay 500$ each... quickly we took off and with us three other backpacker cars. All of us were heading to a gravel spot out of town next to a small river. Four girls who were following us though had some cookies earlier and had trouble keeping up. Therefore, we had to drive quite slowly and make sure they don't lose us. It took us about twice the time it was suppose to take to get to the spot, but there we should be good for the night. We had some drinks and had a good time before we all went in our cars to sleep.
The next day was already planned out: first we went back to the shower place, I had a swim, showered and we made breakfast and then we went to Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. It is like a zoo with research facilities such as animal hospitals. As one of the biggest attractions we did the koala photo shoot first.
Abbey the Koala and Me
The park was quite big but the animal compounds were widely spread. We saw all kinds of interesting and funny looking animals, went to a crocodile feeding show, learnt that fresh water crocodiles are called "freshies" and salt water crocodiles "salties", watched a bird of prey show, saw the happiest animal on this planet which didn't smile for my camera and I took kangaroo selfies. All in all, we had a good time at the park, but think that it was expensive for German standards but not for Australian.
Currumbin Wildlife Sanctury
Red Kangaroo chillin
It started to getting dark and we needed a spot to sleep again. One of the guys who followed us to the safe sleeping spot out of town, told us about a park near Brisbane with showers and BBQ's and that's where we were going. Unfortunately, it started to rain once we got there and we had trouble to protect the inside of the car and maintain a little bit of air flow so we didn't suffocate. What we did: when the rain stopped - window down. When it started again - window up. Before we fell asleep, it knocked on our car again. We thought we had to move again... but a group of young people walked around the area and asked backpackers whether they would like some free sandwiches and drinks... Hell yeah, of course we do! The people all belong to a church group and they want to start a weekly project to feed backpackers and homeless people. Such a good thing. We really appreciated the help.
During the short night we had, I woke up to every car, every noise and whenever the rain stopped or started... wasn't really the best night of my life. In the morning, we used to free cold showers, had breakfast and met a huge group of old people who call themselves "The Rebels". They rebel against cardiovascular diseases and meet four times a week. Again, we were offered some food and gladly took it.
Now, I'm sitting in a library and enjoy the free wifi :D The next couple of days, we'll spend in and around Brisbane before we head further north.
Leaving Coffs wasn't easy, but it was a good feeling to pack up the bags, get the car ready and hit the road. Lena and I were joined by Sophie who did the PADI course with me and her travel mate Emma. Before we picked them up from their hostel, we said goodbye to Jeff and Lesley. I also managed to lock my keys in the trunk and Lena forgot some clothes so we had to turn come back again. After everything was sorted out, we left Coffs Harbour behind us. My car isn't made to travel with four backpackers, but we fitted everything in the car, under the seats or on the laps. Packed up like this, we stopped at a gas station to fuel up the car. I can't believe how crazy cheap gas is here at the moment - for a full tank we only paid a little over 50$! Divided up by four it basically didn't cost us anything.
Yamba was our first stop. Sophie heard about a cool cliff jump which is located at the Yamba Pools. There is the Blue and the Green Pool which both have cliffs to jump off. Both are abandoned quarries.
There are also more pool directly on the beach, which at low tide are filled with nice warm water.
We walked down the path from the parking lot to the Pools and I personally was really disappointed when I saw the jump at the Blue Pool - only 3 meters high, I was all ready with my trunks and my camera and then I saw that... total disappointment. We looked for a higher cliff and almost gave up when we asked this 8-year old local boy where we find the big jumps. He knew and told us it is right down this path through the bushes. Just a few minutes later we were at the Green Pool and here we could choose between jumps of 5,7,10 and 13 meters. Now that's what I was talking about! DIdn't wait long and jumped straight in the water, climbed up the side of the wall and there is the video of the jump:
The group of local kids impressed me by climbing up the wall easily and jumping off the 10-meter jump. It is a really cool spot to chill and also to get a massive sunburn like I did.
Next stop was Ballina. We parked next to a small beach at North Creek and I jumped in the water too cool down a bit. What we didn't expect and it was something I've never seen was thousands and thousands of tiny blue crabs running over the beach.
If anyone has seen third movie of Pirates of the Caribbean where Jack Sparrow sees all these stone crabs... that's how I stood there and was just stunned. Absolutely crazy!
Half an hour later we were already in Byron Bay. Dropped Sophie and Emma off at their hostel and talked to the receptionist for some advise what to do and to see. We were told we should definitely check out the light house and the lookout for the most easterly point of Australian mainland. So, Lena and I drove up to the light house and walked the pathway down to the lookout. An amazing view was offered to us with Byron on our left, the most easterly point of Australian mainland ahead of us and the endless ocean everywhere around us.
View over Byron Bay
7 Miles Beach
Byron Bay's lighthouse
Most easterly point in Australia
At the most easterly point of Australian mainland
Wallaby at Byron's light house
After all the photos for Instagram, Facebook, friends and family were taken, we headed to our accommodation for the next couple of nights. Geoff offered us a place to sleep on couchsurfing and we were very thankful. The last couple of days we therefore spent at a nice house surrounded by farms, cattle and chicken. There are even three Green Frogs living in the bathroom - very interesting roommates. Lilly, Geoff's dog is unbelievable friendly and has a little foot fetish. Geoff is also working on a website to help backpackers and he showed Lena and me the basics of what he got so far.
View over the farms
Cattle around the house
Geoff's dog Lilly
View outside our window
The next day we had to do some business: my car needed new rear tires. Here, the legal profile for tires is 1.5mm, mine were down to 0.5mm... heavy fines were waiting for us if we get caught. We drove to Lismore, the closest town to Geoff's house and got a really good deal at the first place we stopped. An hour later and we had two new and shiny looking Diamond tires. Made the car look 5 years younger and me very happy. One less problem. It was also the day of the XLIX Superbowl - New England Patriots vs. Seattle Seahawks. Before we did anything else, I had to find a pub, get a beer and watch the game. After running through the whole town, we finally found one and we sat with two Britons who were Seahawks fans... uhh, wrong table for me as a Patriot fan, but they were nice besides the fact that they cheer for the wrong team. It made my day, when the Patriots won after a close and intense last quarter. Shout out to my friends and family in New England, especially Maine!!!
After we left the pub, we drove to NImbin. Well, Lena drove as I shouldn't drive anymore :D Nimbin is a very, very laid back and chill little community further into New South Wales. Lots of colorful and exotic stores selling all kind of stuff, like Emu feet. The town has basically only one main road and that's where all the shops are. People walking bare feet, playing music and singing and selling all kinds off plants, like cactus and others Lena and I strolled around the street and the checked out a couple of stores encountering some interesting people. Among some, there was the Pink Panther. He was something like a mascot of this one store and I was told he is the biggest stoner in town - sits on his chair the whole day, doesn't move and no matter how hard you try to talk to him, he doesn't respond :D Definitely worth a visit.
Nimbin Youth Hostel, no idea why I took that photo
Buddhist flags of wisdom
Happy High Herbs
Biggest stoner in town
Funny hats in Nimbin
Stone art in Nimbin
Nice looking piece of art
We had one more day, before we keep driving up north and we decided to drive to Byron and check it out. We didn't get very far, because we walked into a PeterPans travel shop right after we got out of the car. And that's where we spent the next two hours... Afterwards, and over 1.5k$ later, we went out again. I hope I don't see any other tour I want to do, because I just paid for three at once. Lena and I got some really good deals, because we booked the tours in a package. What kind of tours they are, you'll see soon. Besides some interesting looking shops Byron is a normal tourism town. Lena really enjoyed it, but I feel like there are just too many people there to call it a small chill town. It didn't live up to the things I've heard about it, but I also didn't spend enough days in Byron to really judge it. Coffs is still my favorite.
Tomorrow, we'll leave Geoff and Lilly and head towards the Gold Coast with our new Diamond tires.
The last week of January came up and with it, my last week in the beautiful city of Coffs Harbour. I can't believe I've spent over two months here already. First, Coffs was only a stopover on my way to Byron and now it is a place where I feel like home. Endless memories were made here... Aussitel Hostel, the benches, the beach, my work at Lime Mexican, diving, the bonfires... only to mention a few. And of course all the amazing people who made my time here the best! Especially the Coffs Family. The time I had with all of them was incredible and it felt like we've known each other for ages. It wasn't easy to say goodbye to the ones that are still at Aussitel. A quick goodbye turned into hours of talking and drinking and an almost crash in a roundabout - couldn't have ended my time here in a better way.
Besides packing up the car, there was still quite a lot that happened during the last week. Last sunday, Lena and I went skydiving. Yes, we jumped out of a f... airplane at 14,000ft. But let's start from the beginning. We were suppose to be at Skydive Coffs at 7am so we got up early and the adrenaline started to build up already. The skydive store was located right next to the airport and the runway. We arrived, jumped in the suits, walked to the little airplane, were told what to do once we are up in the air and then we already took off... Lena, another jumper, I and our guys we jumped with were all laying on the floor of the plane, waiting for it to climb into the sky. There was not much talking as the engine and the wind were too loud, but the view we had was beautiful. Suddenly, the pilot yelled "5 minutes!"... I was so pumped to jump out of this airplane! We reached the 14,000ft and things happened quickly. The door was opened, the other guy jumped, Lena and her guy robbed to the door and all of the sudden Lena was screaming like crazy but then she was already gone and then Lawrence (the guy, I jumped with) and I robbed to the door, he said "head back, legs back" and there we went... We leaned forward and fell towards earth. Everything was small but quickly became bigger. The air was hitting my face and dried out my mouth as we fell like stones. We started to spin and do flips and it was the best feeling ever - I felt free... I felt like I could fly. My head had not realized yet what I was doing. After 60 seconds of freedom, Lawrence opened the parachute and we slowly came closer to the ground. Once I had the beach underneath my feet I slowly started to think about what just happened. I fell 14,000ft in about 60 seconds and reached about 230 km/h!! This is life, this is freedom. You feel so alive falling down to earth. Now I want to get my license someday and solo jump. I want to feel the thrill again.
Australia Day came up and on that day, basically every Aussie drinks. David, Daniel, Heidi, Lena and I however, decided to spend our money on lasertag. I've never played and always wanted to try it. So we drove up to the Big Banana which is like a big park with waterslides, an ice ring, lasertag and much more. We paid for three rounds but got one for free, because the computer crashed at the end of the first game. Therefore, it was more of a training round. We played 5 vs 5 vs 5 against a family and a group of kids.
There is a short video so you can see what it was like. But I can tell you, my shirt was dripping after four rounds. Tons of fun though. But I still prefer paintball as it is more realistic.
The following days, Lena and I mostly prepared for the upcoming trip up north. At the end of the week, a friend of mine offered to check out my car as he works as a mechanic. He showed me a couple of minor issues and a few major ones and we started to fix what we could in the time given to us. Thanks Barrie for the help!
I had a really nice surprise on my last day of work. I was asked what I was doing Friday morning and I said not much. So I was told that there is going to be a little farewell party for me and some other workers who are leaving and I could choose where we are going. My choice was Attitude Burgers down at the harbor, as I've hear that they are quite good. Friday came up and I really enjoyed the last time seeing my coworkers and friends. We talked about the last months and my future travels and it was a great time. After everyone finished their burgers, I cut the cake Leah made for me. It was a delicious Black Forest cake or a "Schwarzwälderkirschtorte" :D Thanks for the little get together which ended with a cake fight.
Last day as a bartender at Lime Mexican
Now it is Sunday morning, 3am and the alarm clock is set for 830am. Coffs has been the best time of my trip so far and I know that I'm coming back one day. I can't wait though to be back on the road and travel again - next stop: Byron Bay.