We have now been on the road with our campervan for two weeks. By now, we have found some good routines. There is NO excess space available anywhere in the vehicle, which is why we immediately came to the conclusion, that it is mandatory with a certain order and tidiness. Even though you are not always in the mood for cleaning up properly, or to stove away the plates and utensils after breakfast, it pays off in the end having this rule! After having searched for my flashlight and adapter a few times too many, especially I found out that if I just put the things back to where they belong in the first place, I would not have to search too long anymore. Alexandra’s motto: “Only a tidy car is a safe car!” raises a certain point!
The past couple of days has given us many great experiences! We have been to Fraser Island, which is the largest island, completely consisting of sand. Of course the entire island is protected and registered as World Heritage. Many restrictions apply to all visitors coming to the island. You are allowed, however, to go there on your own. Also without a guide. One important rule is, that your vehicle must be a four-wheel drive. In the normal, typical danish skepticism, I thought to myself: “Arh, come on! How important can THAT be?” - but after just a few hundred meters, it was clear to me, that this was not just a stupid rule. You simply do not get anywhere in a normal car!
Fraser Island is 120 km long and apprx 24 km wide at the widest point. And even thought this does not sound like a lot of space, the island has got its own rain forest, eucalyptus forest, bush and many, many kilometers of breathtaking sand beaches! In fact, most of the eastern side of the island is one, long beach. Almost 80 kilometers. Non stop! It is even registered as a highway, with speed restrictions of max 80 km/h. Enforcement is done with local police present on a regular basis. With good reason. Many young people come here in rented four-wheel drives, in order to enjoy a few days in the wild nature. Speeding happens in those cases...
We went on a guided tour in a four-wheel drive bus, that took us around the island. Often we went out to take a walk. One example was the rain forest. In here you find trees well over 500 year of age. Fraser Island used to be a significant source of timber, but in the 1960’s the authorities cleverly realized that resources were not endless, and the harvesting of timber on Fraser Island came to an end. In 1992, the island was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage site, and since then it has been illegal to take anything with you from Fraser Island. It has its very own, isolated eco-system, containing insects and other animals seen nowhere else on earth. The Dingo, a wolf/dog, that lives on Fraser Island, is the purest race of Dingo in the World. Everywhere else it has been mixed with local, domesticated dogs over time. Fraser Island has apprx 200 Dingos and all visitors are strongly advised to have their children within arms reach everywhere on the island. Dingo attacks have happened. Lastly on 2011, where a 9-year old boy died. We only saw Dingos from the safe cabin in our air-conditioned tour bus. And of course one should not make a hype! But we did hold Anton in a firm and steady grip every time we left the bus.
And just as we came riding there on the beach in our bus, two small propella-airplanes met us. They stood there on the sandy beach, ready to take us onboard for an overfly. We took the offer and thus Anton and I suddenly got to see Fraser Island from above. Beaches, rainforest and the Pacific Ocean floated by about one kilometer beneath us. Alexandra had already previously tried such an overfly, so she stayed on the ground. We had hoped to see some whales and sharks, but they must have had other plans just that day!
Back on the beach, we saw the SS Maheno, a Worldwar II shipwreck, that is almost completely rusted away by now. On that sandy beach, with the clear blue sky and the turquoise water as background, this is a fascinating sight. Any trespassing on the ship is prohibited. It is far too dangerous. But a good chance to get some great pictures from a distance.
We have also been to the Whitsunday Islands. No, I did not miss an “e” in Whitsunday! - even though it is pronounced “White Sunday”. First stop on this trip was “White Haven”, which has the whitest, natural sand on the planet. This is also a completely protected and World Heritage listed area. If you are caught with any souvenir from Whitehaven, you will get a fine of apprx 1000 Australian Dollars PER GRAM! So, no little plastic bag with a sample of white sand in the pocket! As the signs on the island says: “We only leave footprints, and all we take with us are pictures and memories!” And it was a beautiful scenery! On the way back to mainland. we spent most of the afternoon snorkeling by the Great Barrier Reef. And yes, we all snorkeled! Even Anton, who still cannot swim, found a place on his mothers back in order to see the beautiful and vibrant underwater wildlife!
I have seen many pictures and films from Great Barrier Reef. And I was somewhat prepared for what I was about to see. But it quickly became clear to me, that you simply cannot prepare yourself completely for an experience of that caliber. So much life! So colorful and beautiful! Anemones, Corals, fish etc etc. Great Barrier Reef stretches all the way from Rockhampton in south to way up north of the Australian coast, by Papua New Guinea. Apprx 2600 km in total. FULL of life! None, absolutely NONE of all the restrictions made to protect this beauty are silly! In an instant flashback to Phuket, Thailand, I think of the sad corals and polluted wildlife we saw there. May the Thai authorities learn their lesson before it is all too late!
Apart from Pacific adventures we have also explored the north east coast of Australia. The part between Brisbane and Cairns, where we are currently staying, is a stretch of apprx 1800 km. This is roughly the same as a trip from Copenhagen, Denmark to Rome, Italy. All the way through Central Europe. Still, we are within the same state, Queensland.
As we embarked from Brisbane, the distance between the cities was not that significant. We started by spending quite a few days in the so-called Hinterland, just a few hundred kilometers north of Brisbane. The scenery was almost a bit european in this area. Oddly, the area also houses many europeans, or descendants from european immigrants. We even visited a Bavarian “Wirtschaft” (Restaurant/Pub) near the town Maleny. The place is owned by a family that has been living in the area for about 30 years. It was fun to see a real, bavarian restaurant, almost identical to the ones we know from Munich. The price of half a liter of Wheat Beer did keep me from ordering anything but Apple Juice. 12 AUD! This even makes a beer in Tivoli, Copenhagen seem like a bargain!
As we go further north the distance between the cities increase. The other day we drove between Rockhampton and Mackay. The distance is about 350 kilometers. Of this, about 200 kilometers is just trees, bridges and open land. Nothing else! And endless road, of course! A few times I have driven up through Sweden, and the huge and wide woods up there. The 90 kilometers I recall before I reached the town of Bengtsfors, now seem like nothing!
And as we go further north, the temperature rises. We have now entered the sub-tropical belt, and daytime temperatures are between 22-25, which by the locals here is considered “brisk” and “autumnly”!! But I find it not too bad!
Yesterday we went for a walk on Alva Beach, about 100 kilometers south of Townsville. We met a local family that were out fishing. All three kids running around, splashing in the water. Needless to say Anton jumped right in! We chatted with them about what we could expect to see of wildlife in the area. They had just caught a nice, big Mud-Crab, which was to be enjoyed at dinner the same evening. And just as we talked, our first, wild Pelican flew by to say hello. Two days ago we saw a Kangaroo crossing the road just in front of our campervan. It almost seems like one big, giant zoo! One thing I really try to keep on top of, is the information on local crocodiles. Where to expect them and such... And the so-called “salties” - Saltwater Crocodiles ARE present in the area where we are now. Fortunately they prefer the Creeks, and as it is autumn now, they are not as active and migrating as they are on other times of the year. But as the local family father said: “You do get far with your common sense!”. So, we keep an eye on Anton at all times, and ask the locals for any dangers!
We have slowly adjusted to the extremely high prices on almost anything here in Australia. An easy example is a bottle of Coca Cola, which costs between 3 and 4 dollars depending on where we buy it. This is FAR above the high, Danish level that we are used to. Yes, there is 600 ml in the bottle, and only 500 ml in Denmark. But still... not cheap! Fortunately we do not drink a lot of cola. Also milk and bread is more expensive. This is what I would call “basic food” so it must be quite a cost for a family! And the bread is not the same as in Denmark either. White-flour bread, made of Wheat. We miss the sourdough wonders that Alex baked before we left Munich.
Prices on accommodation are also quite substantial. In Queensland there has been some major natural disasters in recent years, like floodings and cyclones. The rebuilding of roads and cities sends workers away from home to do their job, thus driving the prices of motels and camper parks through the roof. Over 40% increase in the last 2 years alone. The hotel owners and local camper parks are just trying to compensate for what they have lost because of the disasters, but it keeps many Australians from vacationing on their own country. Because their salary may have risen as well, but not in the same pace! So they either stay at home, or do as the guy we met in Phuket - go to Thailand. This would give an Australian family a three-week holiday in a decent resort, including flights, for the same amount as one week in Australia.
Well, well. We just compare to what we would have payed in Denmark, and this usually save us from the worst shocks...