A Travellerspoint blog

January 2020

Day 51- 56: Having a whale of a time in the Philippines!

Vanilla Manila & whale shark watching in Oslob.


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23rd January- Manilla
Boarding an 8 hour flight with no entertainment was a first world problem but one we could live with. The flight was a sneak peak in to the Filipino way of life; conclusion- laid back, no rush for anything and rather inefficient.

Getting from the airport on public transport seemed almost impossible so we opted for a Grab taxi (basically their version of Uber). This gave us our first insight to the country; conclusion to this- mental. Absolutely anarchy! Cars constantly changing lanes, motorbikes weaving in and out of cars with three people on the back, including babies, people hanging on to the back of Jeepneys and pedestrians just stepping out and holding traffic back with a simple hand up. Everyone with a horn attached to their vehicle beeping it. There was no lane control from anyone. It’s very similar to how I expect India to be. Carnage. It was a bit of a bump into the Asian way of life and a jump start into the "real" traveling aspect of our trip after being eased in.

Our first morning was spent at the embassy getting our visa extended as we ended up with longer than the allowed 30 days due to hastily booking cheap flights out. This was a drastically easier process than the Chinese visa (ironically the one we may not even need ). After we had a walk around the city until the pollution got the better of us. We finally now understand the reason for the medical masks!

We haven’t got up to much in Manila, as far as we can tell there isn’t too much to do here.

A few facts about Manila (and possibly the Philippines in general);

  • They don’t use knives, they’re just not a thing here. Everyone eats with a spoon and fork, seems very inconvenient.
  • They love Karaoke! They also get super offended if you mock their singing. We looked this up, not speaking from experience!
  • The pollution in Manila is visible, the air is grey and thick. You can taste the fumes and feel it layer on your skin. My white shirt turned grey by the end of the day. Sky scrappers blend in to the skyline behind the haze. (Not great when we both already have chesty coughs).
  • They love fast food. Jollibee's and McDonald's are everywhere!

Since it was Chinese New Year we decided to head to China town for dinner, both dressing in red for the occasion. After some quick research we decided where to go, pulling up outside Chinatown didn’t look quite how I’d expected; not very busy, no decorations. The restaurant itself looked like it would be a kebab shop back home. A Lemon Chicken with rice and a roasted duck with chicken rice ordered we noticed in minutes it had filled up and decided maybe we were judging a book by its cover. Minutes later, our food arrive... suspiciously quick. As soon as we tucked in (cutting duck up with a fork and spoon since they don’t have knives here) we realised- we’d picked a fast food restaurant! Our food barely tepid with pretty terrible cuts of meat. We ate all we could till deciding to have a wander through Chinatown and see if it was more lovey further in.

A dodgey walk up the same street, very aware of looking like tourists, with locals eyeing us up and down I thought maybe we should just hail a taxi back to our hostel. We sped up a little and soon enough we were amongst music, lights, lanterns and so many stalls, people milling around us. An air of excitement for the new year. Still not quite as big as I’d expected but happy to be amongst the buzz. We walked through the whole area until we came to a bridge, with beautiful candelabra lamps illuminating the street. Over the other side was like an enchanted forest, fairy lights wrapped around tree trunks and tiny lanterns hanging through the trees. We walked towards music and the trees opened up in to a huge fountain show, similar to the one in Barcelona just on a 100 times smaller scale. After a disappointing start to the evening, it ended much happier.

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Time to make our way to the islands that the Philippines is known for (171 of them to be exact). Before our flight we spent the day mainly catching up with the blog and planning activities for the coming days (but I won’t go in to that for now, you can read about the later). We got to the airport at 6pm and decided rather than visiting the food court in the arrivals hall that we’d go through security and eat that side. Huge mistake, everything was closed, at 6pm! It didn’t make sense, there were loads of passengers. Luckily there was one stall open serving ramen, since we didn’t have much choice we shared a ramen and a teppanyaki. It was actually made fresh in front of us, which compared to the previous evenings disappointment was a treat. Unsure if it would fill us up Andy dashed to Cinnabon (also closing up for the night). He was amused by something when he returned. Turns out the cinnamon rolls were almost the size of my head! However, they were still warm and so soft, so satisfying.

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We got a little excited about Cinnabon giving us knives!!
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28th January - Tan Awan
A fairly nondescript flight later we arrived late at our Cebu hostel and got the bus further down south the morning after. The four hour bus journey only cost £3.20 which is crazy cheap when back home the bus from any village to town is the same cost. The experience (I think experience is definitely the word for it) was an interesting one. Every stop two or three vendors would climb on the bus with huge pallets over their shoulders selling dried fruit, cakes, some interesting looking things that we didn’t even know what it was and even pizza! We were on a local bus so we were the only tourists and strangely all the locals were buying loads of it all.

After our first Asian bus journey (which although was an experience was actually better than we expected it to be, expecting the worst) we checked into our hostel. Pleased there appeared to only be one other guy in our 8 bed room we opted to go in hunt for somewhere cool to grab a beer. This was much harder than it sounds. Tan-awan seems very much a day place thriving purely on the whale sharks, which it seems most people only visit as a day trip. Therefore everything we passed seemed to be closed despite it only being 5.30pm. It was like the airport all over again.

There is only really one main street that runs the whole way around the island and Tan-Awan occupies a small section of this. Small huts and shops prop up the dusty sidewalks, with a scattering of accommodation. With the realisation that virtually everything was closed and it would be futile walking any further we headed back to a place with some fairy lights that shown some promise of life. We ordered two beers; paying less than £2 for both was a novelty we could definitely get used to after NZ and Aus! Then we sat in the deserted bar area. We were literally the only people there as we watched the last of the sunset. It was a beautiful spot and so peaceful yet a little disconcerting being the only people.

We started to worry about dinner with very little around open and the fact food delivery or taxis seemed to also be nonexistant. After checking out back up options in a convenience store just in case, which would mean a crisp dinner, we made our way to one place Google told us was still open and serving tasty looking food. We found the restaurant along with the most activity and tourists we had seen all day. Clearly this place is capitalising on everywhere closing early. Having had no lunch, again, we were both peckish so ordered pork belly with rice and a pizza; both of which we would share. Thankfully the reviews on Google appeared to be truthful as the food was good and most importantly hot! It actually seemed like a luxury after all the tepid food we had eaten so far. It actually felt like a little date night as we chatted, ate and enjoyed each others company. It is great that the food is so cheap here as it makes a difference but having to just have pasta every night. With full bellies it was back for an earlish night ready for the whale sharks tomorrow.

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Whale Sharks
Now we were a little torn about this activity. It had looked so cool online to swim alongside these huge beings but on the bus down here and reading into what to expect a little further it put a bit of a dampener on things. It seems the whale sharks are so popular in this area as the locals feed them large quantities of plankton throughout the day and therefore they, similar to the animals in the zoo, have no reason to leave. This is one thing but we also read that because of this the whale sharks often approach boats that they now associate with feeding and get injured. In addition it sounded as if they take huge hoards of people out on these 30 minute experiences in multiple boats that sit close to each other and only around 60ft from shore, meaning it is very crowded. If all that wasn't enough and the part that was most concerning is that it appeared that despite warnings tourists touch and hold on to the whales. However some of this did sound unintentional and is just due to the lack of space due to the mentioned popularity. With the knowledge that these sharks can be anywhere between 6-10 meters long it isn't difficult to see how accidental collisions can happen.

Knowing all this we were really in two minds whether to do it. But we had come this way and it would be a very unique experience to see creatures so large up close like this. Our curiosity, rightly or wrongly, got the better of us and we decided to join the circus. We paid for our tickets, heard a quick briefing about protecting the whale sharks and sat amongst the waves of people there awaiting our turn. Everything about the number of people, boats, and wait times appeared accurate and it was so odd seeing this place heaving when last night it was dead. One interesting fact we learned that the spots and stripes on each animal is as individual and distinct as a fingerprint,

But it was now our turn, 3 hours later! And actually the number of boats seemed to have dropped off as the tour groups stopped arriving. This meant by the time we got in the water there were only 4 other boats. I know having told you all I have about this activity the next line will be controversial... But we loved it! It was so surreal seeing these beasts literally swimmingly alongside and underneath you. We saw around 6 in total and had seemingly come at the best time of the day as with less boats the whales were condensed in a smaller area where the feeding was happening. It is difficult to describe what it was like being right next to such huge animals. Although harmless it was as nerve wrecking as it as amazing. You could get so close and they swam right up to you. Iz did have an incident whereby she accidently touched one but she hadn't seen it underneath her and it was tricky to avoid, especially with the current being so strong.

The guide was also great and took a number of photos and videos of us swimming right next to them and we came out exhilarated. Yes clearly more needs to be done to protect these wonderful animals and their habitat. Also the constant feeding can not be good for them and tighter restrictions are definitely needed to avoid the way this activity is currently run. But if it can be managed in a more sustainable way it is a wonderful experience. However from what I've read it doesn't seem like that can happen and therefore unfortunately should be suppressed like the riding of elephants and pictures with tigers. Would I do it again? Despite really enjoying getting to marvel at these sharks I wouldn't as the whole thing feels far from natural now. If we had known what we do now before we had organised our transport we would probably have decided against joining in this time.

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A brief clip of our encounter:

Afterwards we showered and went to check out the Tumalog falls. This involved both of us having to get on the back of a rather small and sketchy looking bike. In all honesty it was terrifying! These guys clearly know what they are doing, the roads and the route, but with us both in shorts, holding on to whatever you could grab as he navigated some poorly laid rural roads barely even sitting on the seat it is safe to say we were praying for our lives! Needless to say we made it in one piece and got to witness these idyllic looking falls. Usually there is a 20 pesos charge to view these but as it hasn't rained for a while the waterfalls were not as impressive as they should be and therefore they were not charging. It is true the waterfall did not quite look like the pictures online but I'm sure you will agree it is still pretty magical and we were pleased we still came. Then it was back to our new favourite restaurant and bed for our next adventure ....

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Posted by Bears on Tour 01:57 Archived in Philippines Tagged manila oslob jeepneys whale_sharks Comments (0)

Day 48- 50- Blue Mountains & Featherdale Wildlife Park


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Be warned this entry is a long one and you may feel pangs of jealousy.. So settle in

We had planned to go to the airport for about 11pm the previous day and hang around there all night, but turned out it actually closed throughout the night so instead we ended kipping on some sofas in the hostel garden. Luckily it was undercover as it thunder stormed all night!

Up at 2.30am to make our way to the airport we were both apprehensive about flying due to our stinking colds. But with only a few hours broken sleep, the second we sat on the plane we both pretty much zonked out most of the flight. The only problem with staying up all night is landing at 9am with nothing to do but wait to check in to our hostel. We bumbled around Sydney like a coupe of zombies and drank the worst tasting Guiness known to man. We had a super early night as both of us were shattered and had an early morning.

The Blue Mountains
At the sound of our 6.15am alarm, after a terrible nights sleep (for Iz), we dragged ourselves out of bed and made our way to the train. Today we were going to explore the Blue Mountains. We decided to book the hop on hop off bus to try and cram as many sights info the one day as possible. Once we had our bus passes in hand the day was underway, getting on our first bus, the driver was humorous and factual, keeping us entertained on the way to our first stop.

First up, an easy 2.5km walk from Katoomba Cascades to Katoomba falls, then on to Furber Stairs. We got our first breathtaking view of the expanse of trees and mountains in front of us. It made you feel so tiny. It was a glorious day too meaning you could see this natural beauty in its full glory. The rainforest was a lovely cool cover from the heat that was already beating down even though it was only 9am!

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Back on the bus the driver explained the reason the mountains are called blue mountains. The eucalyptus trees disperse oils in to the atmosphere, the distinctive blue colour is an ‘optical phenomenon’ called Raleigh Scattering. The sun causes the oil to scatter rays of light, similar to a rainbow, these are predominantly blue in colour as the red and yellow molecules pass through the light without leaving a hue. The blue hue throughout the national park is undeniable and definitely adds a magical misty effect to the place.

Our second stop was a short one at Narrow Neck Lookout. The driver pointed out a large area that had been destroyed in bush fire- quite obvious in the different colour of tree area. Being so close to areas so affected really brings home the reality. We walked through an area that we were surrounded by scorched trees and forestry, the smell was overwhelming, just a week ago the path were walking on would’ve been the center of an inferno. It really is quite heartbreaking. We were informed that around 80% of this stunning area had burnt. The fact you can only see small pockets of this evidence tells you just how vast this area is, while also putting a scale on the heartbreaking devastation these fires have created.

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To cheer ourselves up we headed to the Blue Mountain Chocolate Company; aparently serving world famous hot chocolates and milkshakes. Far too hot for a warm drink we opted to share a chocolate milkshake. I must say, it was a good milkshake; not too thick or creamy/heavy or too overwhelmingly chocolatey. Despite trying to hold back we were also tempted by the amazing looking chocolates so treated ourselves to a little bag, comprising of four to share; a white chocolate strawberry champagne truffle, a dark chocolate spiced rum truffle, a salted caramel milk chocolate and a heart shaped white chocolate and raspberry ripple chocolate. We were too tempted by the rest so added two more each- I went for; a white chocolate St Clements and a milk chocolate pineapple and coconut while Iz went for; nougat dipped in chocolate and a milk chocolate mountain mint. YUM! We did somehow manage to hold off trying one until we got to our lunch spot later in the day.

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Back on the bus we headed for the next walk, a 2km hike from Honeymoon Lookout. Here again we gawped at the view, the expanse something you can’t capture with anything but the minds eye. Iz told me it is pretty much a tree covered version of the Grand Canyon. I think this is a pretty accurate way to sum it up, although I've not yet visited the Grand Canyon myself.

The walk then took us right up to the Three Sisters, with the following fable: This tale begins with Tyawan, a witch doctor who had three daughters; Meenhi, Wimlah and Gunnedoo. Whenever Tyawan had to pass by a hole to get food, he would leave his three daughters behind a rocky wall on a cliff. He did this because down this deep, dark hole there lived a Bunyip who was the most feared creature on the land.
One day as Tyawan passed by the hole off to get food, a large centipede crawled next to the girls and scared Meenhi so much that she threw a rock at it. The rock then fell down into the valley and angered the Bunyip. He came up to face the girls, and Tyawan who saw this from a distance turned his daughters into stones to protect them from the Bunyip with his magic bone. After he had done this, the Bunyip began chasing him so he turned himself into a lyre bird. All was well and everyone safe, however in the scuffle Tyawan had dropped his magic bone somewhere, leaving him a bird and his three daughters into the rock formations we see today. It’s said that you can still hear the call of the lyre bird around the rocks even till now; Tyawan in search of the magic bone.

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Then on to Echo Point, probably one of our least favorite places. Don't get me wrong the views still incredible but this was the Instagram money shot pont and therefore filled with every bus tour going, crammed full of tourists trying to grab the perfect Instagram photo (obviously I say photo but they take 15-20 to make sure it’s right). Pretty much everywhere else on our walk it felt like we had the place to ourselves other than a small number of like minded ramblers. We didn’t stay too long there and went to find a bench for lunch. Having been swarmed by wasps we decided this wasn’t the place and we’d get back on the bus to the next location and eat there instead.

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Leura Cascades, another short 1km round trip, a wooden walkway/stairs down some long Cascades. We decided to perch on a wall at the top for our picnic, not a bad view for a Tuesday afternoon when everyone else would’ve been at work (well ignoring the time difference). We sat, ate, chatted and enjoyed our surroundings and appreciating how lucky we were to be here. As we sat there we knew this was going to be one of the best days of our trip. You can see a selection of the many pictures we took but none can demonstrate how perfect this place is. After a little explore around the top one we headed down to the main cascade.

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Conscious of the fact it was turning in to late afternoon and the buses stopped soon we made our way to our final walk, another 1km. We had an hour to make the most of the things to see and be at the next bus stop. We headed down to Gordon Falls, another look out, no matter the angle you look at this scene it is just as impressive as the last! The air so fresh, knowing this was probably one of the only places in the word with so much oxygen we made the most of it, standing taking big breaths in. We almost ran to the Pool of Siloam, slightly disappointing. We’d planned to come here with enough time for a swim, although we didn’t have time for that the amount water wasn’t anywhere near large enough to even paddle in.

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Shooting back up all the stairs (there was a lot of stairs in one day 163 flights to be precise- according to Izzy's Fitbit) to make our way to the Lyrebird Dell. Our tour guide had told us that we’d come across some caves on our left on the way. It was definitely a relief when they came in to sight, as for the last twenty minutes we’d been walking blindly on what could not be considered a path, I had started to worry we were going to end up sleeping in the rainforest, running through the animals that would be most likely to kill us.

We stumbled upon a little waterfall and river and a more substantial path seemed to appear, although still completely overgrown. This clearly isn’t a route for the tourists just wanting a stroll, probably the same reason we didn’t see another person on this walk. We came to a clearing and a road, realizing the little waterfall was infact the Lyrebird Dell we’d been looking for. We weren’t about to scramble back down to it so decided we were done for the day. Still relieved to be back in civilization and not sleeping in the Australian jungle (if only I was famous I could’ve just shouted ‘get me out of here’ and Ant and Dec may have appeared to rescue me) we headed to the bus stop to take us back to the train station. Iz slept most of the way back after an exhausting day and us both not feeling a 100%.

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Featherdale
Next day was another full day this time at Featherdale Wildlife Park to view their impressive collection of Australian animals. Here you could also get up close and feed wallabies and kangaroos which was a unique experience. Talking of unique experiences we had also booked to get a photograph up close with a koala! Unfortunately in New South Wales you are not permitted to hold one but we both could stroke him and pose for a cute picture.

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After we spent the day looking around the park running to various wildlife talks and learning about Australia's odd but fascinating wildlife. For example some facts we learned were; that despite the Tasmanian Devil giving birth to around 40 cubs only 4 make it, in a real survival of the fittest contest and echidnas make a temporary pouch for childbirth and have tongues around 12 inches long despite their short snouts and tiny mouths. It was crazy watching the crocodile leap for some chicken and learn what makes this reptile the ultimate predator. Safe to say I have a new found love and respect for the croc. What an impressive beast!

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We spent a good deal of time ogling these unusual animals must of which we hadn't seen before running back to the train to escape the heat and get ready to meet Nick (another old housemate.. Seems we scared them all off to the other side of the world) for drinks. Once back we showered and made a bit of an effort to dress up, something that feels like a bit of a luxury when traveling as you spend most your day hot, sweaty and feeling a little gross! We also realised it was our 4 year anniversary of getting together! I can't believe it has been that long! Time has just flown and I've enjoyed every single minute. I'm happier now then I ever have been and I have Iz to thank for that. Like every couple we have our ups and downs and I know I'm not always the easiest to live with but this trip has reconfirmed we are better together and we can overcome any obstacle.

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Anyway enough of the mushy stuff. It was good to see Nick and catch up on his own time and tribulations in Australia over a few beers. As Nick had work tomorrow and we had an 8 hour flight (which we somehow only thought was 4 hours) it was time for everyone to head to bed.

And this concluded our Australian adventure. It is difficult to sum up really as in comparison to New Zealand on the whole it isn't as naturally pretty. We also didn't love the cities as much, however having said this the trips to the Whitsundays, snorkeling and Fraser are some of the best experiences we have had so far. Next stop, the Philippines capital of Manila! Join us there for the next entry ????

Posted by Bears on Tour 21:11 Archived in Australia Tagged sydney koala scenery blue_mountains bush_fire kanageroo featherdale_wildlife_park Comments (1)

Day 45- 47 Land, Sea & Air

Mopeds, Scuba in the Great Barrier Reef and flight to Sydney.


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Land- Mopeds in Cairns

We arrived into Cairns at 5am after not really getting much sleep. With nowhere to go we headed for the only place we knew that would be open... The golden arches. After a 3 hour wait and a quick facetime to the parents and fighting off the flies we tried to check into our hostel. We couldn't but could drop our bags.

While choosing what to do for the day we fairly randomly decided to hire scooters and explore the area around Cairns. Having never driven a scooter before the initial practice session and first stint was a little scary. Yet we soon got the hang of it and were zooming (when I say zooming I mean about 50kph) to the Crystal Cascades. There were a few hairy moments especially on the 80kph highways when our little machine couldn't get over like 53kph!

Despite our lack of speed and experience we made it alive. And after a short walk (fighting off some killer flies that bite) we came across a little clear water river. With it being 38 degrees outside we striped off and jumped straight in. It was sooo refreshing and there were so many fish swimming around. Once we had cooled down and eaten lunch we walked a little further up in search of the main waterfall. There we spent the next 3 hours just relaxing in the water watching kids nearly kill themselves by jumping down it into some sketchy water with loads of hidden rocks and shallow points. Fortunately there were no casualties to ruin our afternoon. It was so fun just being with my best friend chatting about random stuff while chilling in the water. The only thing that was missing was a beer.

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Back on the bikes we shot back to Cairns. We had a few directional problems mainly as the airpods kept disconnecting from Izzy's phone leaving us guessing where to go. Because of this we got back to the hires shop late but the owner was still there and just said to fill up and bring it back tomorrow. We only had driven about 30 minutes away but we only had to pay about £2 to top up both bikes which was funny! Pretty stressed and tired it was back to the hostel for a shower and a much needed happy hour, before retiring for an early night in preparation for our scuba tomorrow.

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Up early we whizzed the bikes back to the shop before getting to the mariner. Which stinger suits picked and waivers signed we were off. The first stop was a short snorkel opportunity before kitting up for our scuba. Again we were memorised by the fish but a little disappointed that it didn't seem as good as the Whitsundays one. There were some coloured coral but the colours were fairly dull and these were surrounded by a lot of dead coral. Not the pictures of the barrier reef you are used to seeing but we also were prepared for this reality and is one of the reasons we were determined to see what we could of what is left.

We were really excited as well as a little apprehensive. I was just getting over a cold and Iz had one coming. We knew that the depths we were diving would play havoc with our sinuses and were worried that we may not be able to compete it. Shortly before our turn Iz also had felt a little sick; probably due to a mixture of little food and not taking her travel sickness tablets. But she powered on as always and we were kitted up with some heavy weights and an oxygen tank.

Surprisingly we completed all the basics steps with ease and the instructor was convinced this was not our first time. I found breathing under water through the mask fairly natural and felt quite comfortable. However as we started the descend both of our ears were really hurting. It was similar to flying with a cold but worse. When you blew through your nose to equalise your ears it brought temporary relief but the pain was intense. So much so Iz said that she couldn't continue and we resurfaced for her get back on the boat. This was a real shame. And I was gutted for her. I was also feeling the pain and strain but I was determined to try and grasp this opportunity! So headed back under. Once we were down and laying horizontal the pain largely disappeared which was even more frustrating as we literally were getting to that bit when Iz wanted to get up.

It was a cool experience. Getting to view the marine life up close. It kind of felt like snorkeling until you looked up and realised that it was water not sky above you. I had been really hoping to see turtles but again was disappointed. Although I didn't mind too much as it would have sucked for Iz to miss it. The dive was shorter than expected and only lasted about 10 minutes. Also it was a little disappointing that we couldn't take our GoPro. So we didn't get any pictures of us in action. It is definitely an experience and it is awesome to say I've scuba dived in the Great Barrier Reef! But I was a little underwhelmed. I probably built it up too much in my head! Although saying that we are both willing to give it another in Asia. Maybe next time we will get to see these allusive turtles!

Next up was lunch before another snorkel opportunity. With both our ears hurting and Iz feeling really queasy we largely stayed on the boat for the reminder of the time. At our final stop a few of the group went for second dives and we headed out for a little snorkel.

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Back on shore we dried off and found a brewery with happy hour for a beer and a bit of travel admin.

19th January was another day whereby nothing elaborate or excited happened. We basically just stayed in the hostel pool awaiting our 5am flight back to Sydney, so I'll save you the boring details. We did however reunite with 'the kids' from Fraser so spent the evening with them.

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Posted by Bears on Tour 22:10 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Day 42- 44 - Wildlife, Worry & Whitsunday!


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14 January 2020- Wildlife
After a hectic few days on Fraser we took the day fairly easy; starting off by rearranging our bags and charging devices, this has now become common practice on check out day. Once satisfied we headed to check out Noosa National Park in search of the Fairy Pools and keeping our fingers crossed for Koalas!

Our wildlife hunt started well with us spotting a school of dolphins mere minutes into our walk. This was the first time either of us could recall seeing these in the wild. There were between 6-8 dolphins swimming not too far from shore and we tracked their progress as we trekked along the coastline. Well this was until a large group of people starring at a tree distracted us. Matt (our Fraser guide) had told us this was a popular spot for kaola spotting so we got excited. After about 10 minutes glaring at the tree tops without seeing anything I noticed a pair of fluffy ears poking out into the skyline. It was a little napping kaola!! I couldn't believe it. We had heard that it was rare to see kaolas in the wild and after all the bush fires and the fact we were not going into the forrest we kind of resigned ourselves to the fact we wouldn't see one outside a sanctuary. But here he was! I've no idea how the first person saw him as he was so well camouflaged into the trees but I was so happy to see his little outline and we stopped for around 25 minutes to just gawk at him. Feeling chuffed we gave up our prime viewing spot to locate the Fairy Pools.

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The weather was really random with rain spells interrupting a really sunny and hot day. We stumbled across the pools during one of these rainy spells. While I'm sure the weather didn't help we were pretty underwhelmed by the pools. They were basically just two small rock pools filled with overflowing sea water. The backdrop of uninterrupted sea was cool and made them like infinity pools but we weren't feeling a dunk.

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Instead we went to try some more koala hunting. Although this proved to be a little hazardous as looking up at trees meant you weren't looking for rocks that were lurching to trip you up! Unfortunately we didn't manage to spot any other ones but the good thing was that the one we saw earlier was still in the same location and had moved down a little. After getting some cool photos he then had a little stretch and clambered down the tree for some food. It was magical watching him. And I feel sure he knew everyone was watching and was just showing off! He really was cute and we could have watched him all day but we needed to get back for our bus... Which we had already left the timing fairly fine resulting in a brisk walk back! How does this airways happen!

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Loaded up it was time for another overnight bus to Airlie Beach in preparation for our Whitsundays trip. The four 18 year olds we had adopted on Fraser were also on the same bus which provided some laughs and extra conversation. As with all the bus rides we've had it was fairly uneventful. Well that was until we got to one of the service station stops, where out the corner of my eye while awaiting the toilet I noticed an odd movement. It was not a natural looking movement or anything I'd seen before and peering through the darkness without my glasses on I could not be sure what I had seen. Well not until the movement happened again and I overheard someone whisper that there was a kangaroo there! Grabbing Iz we both looked out waiting for it to move again. Which sure enough it did and appeared under the street lamps next to a busy road with a baby Joey in toe. It was not something we expected, especially against the back drop of a petrol station, and it was like nothing we had ever seen! It was wonderful and really topped off a great wildlife spotting day! 3 stereotypically Australian animals in the wild ticked off in one day... Not bad!

Stepping off the bus at 9.30am at Airlie was like stepping into a sauna! The heat just encompassed you and made us instantly begrudge the walk to the hostel we knew was coming. A hostel representative had come down to lead the way. Although this was bittersweet. As on the one hand it meant we wouldn't get lost and would take the most direct route... Yet on the other hand it meant we would not be able to set our own pace. Dripping in sweat (much like now as I write this) and in a fair degree of pain we ploughed forward to the hostel.

15 January 2020- Worry

When we arrived feeling disgusting we were told we that we couldn't check in until 2pm. Although fairly common it's still annoying. Despite this we thought we would try our luck as sometimes rooms are available a little early. And boy were we in luck! She did let us check in and upgraded us to a private room!! Things like this do not happen to us and we were revelling in it. The room was a large four bed family room with a double bed, air con, a fridge and it's own bathroom! Now this may not sound like much but when you are used to staring a room with around 6 other people and often a bathroom with a greater amount this was luxury! Plus it was nice just to be able to spread out and walk around without clothes which in this heat was a dream! After a shower to freshen up and cool down we headed to explore the town and grab lunch.

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Lunch was a huge tasty pizza that was large enough to have the leftovers for lunch. We also had a chat to the pizza chef and things were all going well. Obviously with us this was about to come crashing down. The hostel was massive and beautiful with two pools we headed to one, again in an attempt to cool down. This was futile though as the pool water must have been about 18 degrees, so it felt like a warm bath! Back at the room looking to book our flight our flight into Japan was when disaster struck! We couldn't find the debit card! We had taken it to reception earlier as they had wrongly charged us for the upgrade sand we needed to reverse it. But neither of us could remember when we last had it. After a mad panic looking everywhere we resided ourselves to the fact it was gone, but hoping it would have been handed in when checking in the morning. It really put a dampener on things. Which was a shame as everything had been going so well. Crestfallen we packed a bag for our trip the next day and headed to bed.

16 January- Whitsundays

After checking at reception and still no sign of the card we put it to the back of our minds ready to enjoy our day trip. Once measured for a wet suit and after signed our lives away in disclosures we were on the boat. It was another scorcher of a day and we were pleased for the breeze as the speedboat bounced over the sea. It was a ridiculously calm day on the water, so much so the surface looked like a mirror.

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We reached our first snorkel spot and wow it was incredible. By far the best place either of us have ever snorkeled. There were fish everywhere and they were so brightly coloured. Although it is really difficult to see on the camera. You could get so close to them! Our big ambition was to a turtle, however we didn't get so lucky. Back in the boat it was off to the next snorkel spot. The diversity of fish at this stop was lesser but here they were permitted to feed the fish meaning there were just streams of fish everywhere. When the food hit the water if you were close you would literally be caught in a fish tunnel. It's experiences like this that are so hard to actually describe and the reason you need to travel and experience these things first hand.

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With a lunch in our bellies and on a little high it was time to stop at Hill Inlet and view the famous Whitehaven beach! This has to be the most beautiful beach you will ever see! It looks like it has been made on a computer and no photo does it's beauty justice. Something else special about this beach is that it looks completely different every day, as the sand swirls in different ways. So only the people that visited on the same day as us will have the unique photos we have of this location. It is difficult to comprehend that nature has made this place. It honestly looked like everyone's perception of paradise. Another interesting fact is that the sand here is the purest and finest in the world! It is 98.9% pure silica sand. In comparison the sand at Lake McKenzie is around 60% and this place has the second purest silica sand in the world! As at Lake McKenzie the sand was great for exfoliating your body, washing your hair and buffing up any gold jewellery. The below photos are not enhanced in any way, yet they still don't capture what you saw. Seriously stunning!

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Although it was great to view the sand and sea from above it was so hot we just wanted to run down and get in the water. Yet again though the water wasn't really as cool as you'd like yet still refreshing. It really was a brilliant day and along with Fraser up there with the best things we have done in Australia.

Next stop an overnight bus to Cairns!

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Posted by Bears on Tour 02:41 Archived in Australia Tagged fish water koala paradise snorkeling speedboat whitsundays airlie_beach thunder_cats kanageroo Comments (0)

Day 39- 41- FRASER!!

Our paradise Island adventure


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One of the things we love about traveling is meeting people whose life you would never normally cross paths with. From all warps of life. So, this upcoming trip we expected to meet quite a few.. and we definitely did. The night before leaving for Fraser Island was spent ‘mingling’ with our future camp mates, the free alcohol definitely helped ease this process! We joined a bunch of Germans playing an interesting version of drinking snap. We drank a lot and talked a lot, while fully aware of our 5.30am alarm we made sure we got tucked up in bed early enough.

10 January 2020- Day 1
The next morning was rough, unbelievably hot, dizzy from skipping dinner and headache from too much alcohol, I could barely stand up. Scoffing breakfast bars and as much water as I could to cool down, to no avail. We got packed up and on the bus and started to feel a little better in the air conditioned bus with chance of an extra snooze.

We were all put in to cars; although the group we wanted to be with all got split up we ended up in a pretty good car. Unfortunately, they have quite strict rules for who can drive- you have to be over 21 and been driving for 2 years. That left 7 people out of 3 that could get behind the wheel and unfortunately ruled us out! We didn’t realise we were getting old until about 90% of the trip was under 21! We were in the car with a group of three English girls and a boy who are all working in schools in NZ for a year before uni, the guide and a very quiet German girl.

It was a well organized trip with four 4x4s all driving in convoy. Our first stop was for essential supplies; booze, ice and a lot of super cold water! Then lunch! The way it was divided was Car 1 (our car) did breakfast both mornings, Car 4 did lunch both days and Car 2 & 3 had a rock, paper, scissor contest to decide who did dinner first night and the loser did dinner the second night. Full up on cheese, ham and salad sandwiches we made our way to the crossing for the island.

An hour of beach driving and we made it to our first destination, Lake Wobby. Unfortunately, it was a 30 minute hike up hill to get there, through sand and mangled tree roots. Due to the heat, everyone had been advised to wear trainers as the sand would burn your feet- annoyingly Andy and I trying to be savvy bought trainers that work as water shoes too. These are great but one downside is they are full of holes, meant to let water out but actually meant they also let sand in, which meant an uncomfortable 30 minute walk with shoes full of sand. An opening came in to view and drenched in sweat I got excited we were there... nope, we’re were just at some sand dunes which was even harder to walk on, and the guide was right, burning hot. Eventually, the lake came into view, an incredible pool of water in a valley surrounded by tremendously high sand dunes one side and green rainforest on the other.

As we were walking/ falling down the sand dunes and I was exclaiming how excited I was to get in the water and cool off, a girl around me mumbled ‘yeah, but you have to climb back up this at the end’. In that moment I didn’t care, stripping as fast as I could I ran into the water and submerged myself, finally feeling the cool corse through me. Andy faffed around for ages before finally joining the rest of the group. The water was so refreshing! The freshwater green lake is slowly disappearing due to the sand blow and will eventually seize to exist. Most people sat there for about 40 minutes letting tiny fish nibble at them. This idea didn't appeal to me.

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Walking back up the sand dune was hell; all the cooling off you’d done in the water forgotten within minutes of starting off up the hill. We made our way to camp and all got settled in. Car 3 having won Rock Paper Scissors had opted to cook the first night, which turned out to be sausage and vegetables with the added bonus of corn on the cob! #win. We ended up playing a game called Irish Snaps while we waited, a drinking game imparted on us by the teenagers, urgh, why are we the oldest people on this trip!

After dinner the drinking games continued until the guide started a game of ‘bite the box’, where everyone stood around in a circle and took it in turn to bend down and pick up a box with only your teeth and no hands or other body parts on the floor. Once every round is complete they cut the box in half again. Andy and I were both out before round 3 had ended... Our old age clearly impairing our flexibility. However the game somehow continued for another hour until the box was dug into a hole about a foot and a half in the sand and two girls remained just bending down as if it was nothing to pick it yup- evidentially the world's most flexible pair. In the end the tie break was decided, resulting in a card being placed on the floor and seeing who could pick it up quickest.

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11 January 2020- Day 2 on the island
Being on breakfast duty meant a nice early 5.30am wake up for us while the rest got a slight lie in. Having gone to bed late and a night of storms waking us up we were all pretty tired. We did our duties and made pancakes and toast which were much appreciated by the rest of the group emerging from their tents.

Our first stop of the day was to Eli Creek. However this is where we encountered first hand how changeable the island could be as a high tide had created a lake of deep water tight where we had to drive through. The water was so high it was coming up past the doors. In case one we got through without too much issue, although our guide was anxious about it, it was fun for us to be in. To avoid damage to the cars the guide drove all of them through one by one. The second car, however, got stuck in the water and the water was pouring in from the doors all the way up to the seats causing a few wet bottoms. After about 10 minutes he finally got it going again and we were on our way again.

Eli Creek is a fresh water stream, the water (apparently) purer than any bottle water- minus all the leaves. We can both certify that the water was pretty good and clean. We started at the top of the stream with a group photo in the refreshing water before floating down the river lazily. It was so refreshing. Our natural shower for the day! Being on an island with no electricity or running water meant it genuinely was our shower for the day.

A game of volley ball between two tour groups commenced and after insisting Andy stopped to put sun cream on twenty times I gave in and joined the game. Having been up since half 5 it felt like it was about 2pm when in reality it was only 11am! Everyone agreed it was time for an early lunch. Getting out of the sun Andys back was bright pink! No sympathy was deserved.

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The guide mixed up the car loads so we were i a different group which was a nice change, the radio blasting some banging hits and jokes flowing.
We spent the rest of the day with the other tour group which wasn’t as fun- none of the guests really interacted with any of our group and their tour guide was a 60 year old man who thought he was still in his 20’s, needed to be the center of attention, with a thick smokers laugh and some terrible jokes (although I do love some terrible jokes and will definitely repeat them).

Champagne pools was next stop, some amazing natural small pools next to the ocean which the waves spill over the top off, creating bubbles in the pools; hence the name. Weather wise, it was a strange day- intense heat in the morning, pouring down rain when we got to the pools, within an hour bright sunshine again. Andy and I both love water so this is the perfect kind of day for us- water hopping.

A short hike up Indian Head gave an incredible view of the ocean and some of the bays of the island. The reason for the name is not due to the hill resembeling an Indian headdress as some believe but instead named by Captain Cook upon his arrival and seeing the whole hill full of abroigonals. Again, torrential rain began and it was time to run back to the cars. Although by this point we were used to getting wet and just drying off so we aren't too bothered.

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Back at camp for the evening, Car 2 started on pasta bolognese and garlic bread for dinner. We ended up in a drinking game of Uno with some Germans , I love this part of travelling, learning about different cultures, languages and traditions. Dinner was as good as it smelt and after more drinking and games it was time to head to bed!

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12 January 2019
Final day on the island, another early morning on breakfast duties, we had to pack up all our stuff up as we wouldn’t be returning to camp once we’d left. We made our way to Lake McKenzie which was about an hour drive on the sand beaches again which was so much fun. The heat downpour had made the tracks a little tricky. Andy and I would’ve loved to have been able to drive too but it was still fun being a passenger.

Lake McKenzie was beautiful, a humongous lake surrounded by forest, it felt like your own private lake. The water is so pure that only three species of fish can survive in the lake, we were literally in paradise! The guide explained the sand was the second purest in the world, you could run it through your hair as conditioner. Since he was a bit of a prankster non of us believed him. He scrubbed sand in to his hair and washed it out and made everyone feel is hair. He was right, cue all 31 people proceeding to scrub sand in their hair, faces and bodies. It was crazy how soft everything felt after.

Andy went in search of turtles but came back disheartened. The lake was so deep looking down all you could see was pitch black, quite disconcerting. Making my way back to shallower water, treading water is so exhausting, we started playing a few games. Up first was taking it in turns to try and stand on each other’s shoulders to flip them off backwards, it resulted in a lot of side splitting laughter, especially from two of the Germans. I then suggested shoulder wars; initially I was on Andy's shoulders and we had a degree of success but this game seemed to gain traction and soon it was carnage. Everyone was on someone’s shoulder pushing and barging others around, definitely a fun way to end the trip together.

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Unfortunately, you’re only allowed to spend two hours here or risk a fine so we had to move on. On the single track back we came across a stuck 4x4, with another car already helping our guide got all of us to get out the cars to help push. This poor family stuck were suddenly surrounded by 31 people trying to push and dig their car out. The problem was the more the wheels spun the more sand they dug them selves in to. Some of the guys from our tour got right under the car to try and dig the sand out and in the end another car came to the rescue and pulled the car out. We made our way to the lunch spot, there was a bakery with huge doughnuts so we headed over only to be let down by pretty rubbish looking pastries. The trip started to wrap up with everyone pretty exhausted it was time to head for the ferry.

The constant on off rain had made the sand really difficult to drive and the car windscreen was steaming up, we had to leave the windows down and I ended up drenched! The guide couldn’t see anything out the window and had to keep putting his head out the window to see where he was going. It made the drive back very hard and slow, taking longer than normal with a number of breakdowns. This meant we ended up crossing quite late and getting back to the hostel a few hours later than expected but with nothing to be back for it wasn’t an issue for anyone.

Since all the guests of the trip were staying in the hostel they put on a special for burgers (best burger I’ve had in years!) and drinks. With everyone all showered, in clean clothes and good spirits it was a fun way to end the trip! It was a relief to finally get the sand out all those awkward places it gets in to. Everyone was drinking and dancing with all their new friends.

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Posted by Bears on Tour 22:47 Archived in Australia Tagged fraser_island Comments (0)

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