The Maheno had already been put out of service as an ocean liner and had been sold for scrapping purposes to a Japanese company. When the ship was towed from Sydney to Japan, the towing ship lost its haul during a winter-cyclone in July 1935. The Maheno then stranded along the Eastern Beach of Fraser Island. After that, no one wanted the ship anymore. So its remainders can still be witnessed today.
In the last couple of days we were able to do several day trips to see red canyons, yellow pinnacles, colourful sand dunes, endless beaches, an old shipwreck, champagne pools, freshwater lakes, rainforests, large kauri trees, banksia woodlands, eucalyptus forests, Dingo footprints, different bird species, remote inland tracks, creeks, spiders and much more. You are welcome to take a look at the photography section. Not having had internet nor telephone reception the whole time strangely did not bother us at all.
Back to the mainland
Time to say good-bye to Fraser Island. So we head back down the Eastern Beach, this time in a southern direction, take the barge to the mainland and – after having adjusted tyre pressure back to normal road requirements – drive further on to Hervey Bay (approx. 2h 45min from Rainbow Beach).
Gentle giants in Hervey Bay
Humpback whales travel north to tropical waters to give birth to their young ones. Then they travel all the way back to Antarctica to their feeding grounds. During the return trip they do not eat, except for the young ones. They drink up to 600 litres of solid milk from their mom – every day! The reason for the long and dangerous journey is, that the baby whales would not be able to survive if born in the cold waters of Antarctica.
The Whitsundays and the Great Barrier Reef from an aerial perspective
Just outside the town of Airlie Beach is the Whitsunday Airport. From there a scenic flight gives a nice overview over the 74 islets making up the Whitsundays. In 1770 Captain Cook sailed through the passage between the Northern Islands – which is now fittingly named Cook´s passage. It happened to be on the day of Pentecost (also called Whit Sunday). Hence the Whitsundays. The Great Barrier Reef does not need much introduction, I presume. It is rated to be the largest living being in the world, a World Heritage Site and of course breathtaking.
It is the third most photographed spot in Australia – after the Sydney Opera House and Ayers Rock (Uluru). We “ocean-rafted” across to Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island to experience the magic first hand. The sand is made up of silica, which gives it its white colour. It also prevents the sand from getting hot! How cool is that? You can´t burn your feet walking on the sand! That however also means, that it is not suitable for turtles to lay their eggs here, because the silica sand does not provide high enough temperatures to enable young turtles to hatch.
Take a break at Rollingstone
Rollingstone is a tiny community north of Townsville – the type were general store, petrol station, post office and bank are all in one small building and that´s it. But they have a magnificent beach to walk on. A perfect place – as crazy as this might sound – to take a break for a couple of days from all the fantastic experiences we recently had. To allow them to sink in a little. Also a good place to dedicate time to intentional thinking, reflecting and planning.
Reef, rainforest and markets: Cairns
Cairns – it´s probably best known as one of the gateways to the Great Barrier Reef. It´s lush tropical climate is inviting, it´s setting between ancient rainforests beautiful. If you like shopping for fresh fruit and veggies you also have a reason to like Cairns. There are many beautiful food markets – we checked out Rusty´s close to the Wharf, which was a wonderful change from shopping at supermarkets (and far more reasonable, too).
Somehow everything was aligned perfectly. The clarity of ocean water is influenced by a myriad of factors: currents, tides, moon phase, temperature, wind and weather are just some of them. On the day we had chosen to go out to the reef they simply all came together to create crystal clear water conditions. The snorkeling was out of this world, the coral and its colours simply incredible. And we haven´t even talked about the fish yet.
Rainforests have their name for a reason
After setting over the Daintree river with the only available ferry we happily arrived at our rainforest camp in the Daintree National Park, which is still on the East Coast (North of Cairns). Daintree NP has the oldest rainforests in the world and has been declared a world heritage site. It is also the place, where we were reminded, why the word “rain” features in rainforest. Despite it supposedly being the dry season, we almost got washed away. During the nights it poured down solidly for hours and hours. Thankfully the mud puddles building up around us didn´t make it into the tent.
Cape Tribulation in the Daintree NP received its current name from Cpt James Cook. In the year 1770 he sailed up the East Coast of Australia to take possession of the land for the British Crown, otherwise the Dutch might have kept it. It is here where he hit a reef and almost sank his ship, the Endeavour. Hence the name Cape Tribulation. With a bit of good luck – the coral he had hit broke off and functioned as a plug – and hard work they were able to save the ship and complete their mission.
The Outback is calling!
So far we have travelled some 5.000 km coming up the East Coast from Sydney to Daintree National Park – that includes side trips here and there. For the next couple of weeks we will leave the East Coast behind us to venture into some more arid and dusty areas of the country. The Outback is calling! First we will be heading west towards Darwin, then South through the middle of the continent towards Port Augusta. And then it will be back to Sydney. Roughly 8.000 km ahead of us, so let´s get going!
Lavatubing in Undara
Never heard of Undara? No worries. But they have something there that´s worthwhile stopping for! Lavatubes. Geologists say the most beautiful and intact lavatubes in the world. During previous volcanic eruptions, a lot of the hot lava was channelled into riverbeds. While the surface of the flowing lava slowly cooled off, beneath the surface it remained hot and continued to flow – leaving behind a lavatube.
Lavatube (“Windtunnel”), Undara
Travelling along the Savannah Way
The Savannah Way connects Cairns on the East Coast to Broome on the West Coast. We travelled 800 km of it – via Undara to Normanton. The remaining 2.900km will have to wait for a separate trip. When travelling in Australia, one has to make concessions. There is so much to see and to do, it simply takes some prioritizing.
Australia´s treasure chest
To say that Mount Isa is in the middle of nowhere is a pretty accurate description. Prior to 1923 there was absolutely nothing here. When lead ore was discovered in the same year, news travelled fast – even back then – and within a short period of time people flocked to the region in search of riches beneath the surface. They came to the right place. The Mount Isa region contains 11% of all zinc and lead, 5% of all silver and 1% of all copper resources worldwide. If you ever come here, join a tour of the Hard Times Mine! It´s a great experience taking you directly into the dark and dangerous world of mining!
Natural thermal pool along the way
A welcome break on the last stretch of the 680 km drive from Threeways to Katherine. Swimming in the 34° C warm and crystal clear water of the natural thermal pool at Mataranka. The water feeds into the Roper river. Embedded between palms and other trees this is quite an experience after driving hours and hours through hot and arid landscapes for most of the day. But then 34° C is not really refreshing either.
Katherine´s gorgeous gorge
Katherine is the third largest city of the Northern Territory – with slightly more than 10.000 inhabitants. It´s situated along the Savannah Highway and also a convenient stop on the way to Kakadu National Park, Darwin or when heading South towards Uluru (Ayers Rock). Apart from its logistical practicalities its close to Nitmiluk National Park with its dramatic gorge. The park is named after the rainbow serpent “Nibilil”, an important dreamtime figure in the native Jawoyn culture – one of the Aboriginal tribes.
Croc Dundee´s Territory: Kakadu National Park
Parts of the movie “Crocodile Dundee” were shot here at Kakadu. Does anybody remember it? Back then the area was more known for its Uranium that is still mined here. But by now it is also a National Park with more than 19.000 square km (approx. 1/2 the size of Switzerland) and dual World Heritage status – for its natural and cultural aspects. Well, we can´t wait to discover some of it!
Jim Jim Falls – just without the Falls
One of our first sightseeing tours in Kakadu was taking the 4WD track to the popular Jim Jim Falls. Usually, the water falls down here up to 200m from the surrounding Arnhem Land Plateau. Not so in the dry season, which we otherwise appreciate for the better driving conditions. The walk is short but strenuous, as it includes climbing over large rocks for most of the time. Highlight: A swim in the plunge pool – which still holds deep waters even during the dry season!
Yellow Water – not River!!
When thousands of (non indigenous) Buffalo walked into the wetlands of Kakadu, they stirred up mud and the water started to look murky and yellow. Hence the name Yellow Water. Not to be confused with the Yellow River in China. Apart from the name, nothing is really yellow. Most of the Buffalo were killed off to protect the natural ecosystem. The Yellow Water region boasts an incredible flora and fauna and is an absolute highlight of the Kakadu NP! Don´t go to Kakadu without visiting this area!!
Ancient rock art – mystical and practical
Kakadu National Park also features many ancient art sites. Apart from drawing mystical figures from their dream time culture, the Aborigines also did a lot of practical and straightforward painting, e.g. to educate their children about possible food sources. Preferred drawing material was and is ochre, which plays an important part in Aboriginal culture (also for body paintings).
Fish & Chips in Darwin
Darwin, capital city of the Northern Territory. Due to the few inhabitants, everything is a bit more relaxed around here. Following through on a tip we had received while travelling, we went to the Stokes Hill Wharf to indulge in delicious Fish (Barramundi) & Chips. The area also offers something for the historically interested, as it was targeted during Japanese bombings raids on Australia during WW2.
Waterfalls and Termite Mounds: Litchfield!
A nice day trip from Darwin! Litchfield National Park offers several water falls, that allow for a refreshing swim in their basin (please see photography section). It is also home to different types of termites, which are truly fascinating architects . Below you can see a mound typical for the Magnetic Termite. To control temperature, the narrow side of the mound is perfectly aligned from East to West, leaving the wide sides to face north (always sunny and warm) and south (always shady and cool). The result looks a bit like a tombstone.
The Aborigines belief, that the mystical dream time figure of the rainbow serpent laid its eggs here. Geologists get equally excited at this seemingly random accumulation of massive round stones. It is not too difficult to understand why marbles feature in the English name of the site.
Also known as Alice Springs – welcome to the main hub of the Red Centre. After driving for hours and hours through beautiful but non-inhabited Outback landscapes, you are suddenly in Alice Springs. For us it was the place to have our exhaust fixed, which started to make beautiful but illegal noises. And of course, being in Alice, you also would go out to explore the nearby MacDonnell Ranges – which is exactly what we did.
Ok, we simply were lucky! As it had rained quite a bit in the Red Centre in the weeks prior to our arrival – ending a 7 year draught – wild flowers where in abundance everywhere! My wife thought, she was in the largest flower shop on Planet Earth. No picture can replace the impression of standing on the side of a lonesome, red, dusty road and seeing flowers in all directions until the horizon.
Coming from Alice Springs and going to Uluru, it would be a pity to not visit Kings Canyon! The 6km rim walk is an experience we can highly recommend. Allow 4 hours if walking at slow to moderate speed. A healthy fitness level, a hat and lots of water are good companions. On hot days be there early, as the walk gets closed later in the day. First you climb up from the base to the rim and then the track – as the name suggests – takes you along the rim. You even get to see the “Garden of Eden” along the way (see Photography section). At some places you can virtually stand right next to a 300m high drop off. So don´t go too far!
Uluru-Kata Tjuta – or Ayers Rock and The Olgas
You can have endless discussions which of the two you prefer! Uluru is the largest single monolith on earth. But Kata Tjuta is even higher and consists of multiple rocks. So chose your own favourite! Both have their colour in common, which is caused by rust, as the rocks have a high content of iron. Hence people also call Uluru somewhat affectionately “the big rusty thing”. My favourite were The Olgas, they are a bit less hyped and it was easier to find a spot for my tripod. But back to the main attraction of the park, which is Uluru. There is an ongoing discourse if people should still climb it, which you currently can, but which is in conflict with the traditional law of the Anangu people, the traditional landowners. We decided to refrain from climbing to not cause any offence and enjoyed the views from the ground.
Coober Pedy: The “Opal Capital” of the world
And that is not an empty statement. 80% of all existing opal is found in this area! But that´s not all. Coober Pedy also claims to be the only place on earth where you can camp underneath the ground (at Riba´s) – of course in a discontinued opal mine. That in itself was an interesting and equally dusty experience. And then there is also the Hollywood side of this rustic outback location. Parts of “Mad Max” and other sci-fi/action movies were cast here, taking advantage of the rough and somewhat monotone surroundings of Coober Pedy.
Culture shocks in and around Adelaide
After having been in the Outback for several weeks and thus coming out of a world where you greet everybody you meet on the road, it was quite a culture shock coming back into a larger metropolitan area. We were welcomed by a traffic jam, something we had neither experienced nor missed since leaving Sydney 3 months ago. To get over it we took a tour into the close-by Barossa Valley, which provided us with a culture shock of the more recommendable type. Lovely wineries and food! While the Seppeltsfield Estate was a good source for Tawny (I especially liked their 21 yr old Para Tawny), the Hentley Farm was certainly impressive with their Shiraz variations! Lunch at Maggie Beer´s Farmshop and a visit to a nearby Lavender Farm completed a lovely day trip.
Storm and lights out in South Australia
After heavy rainfalls and already intense wind gusts, the electricity of our powered campsite in Adelaide went out in the afternoon. Assuming that the weather might have caused the problem, I went outside to ask others, if they also experienced a power failure on their sites. As two close-by gentlemen looked up from their smartphones, they informed me, that the problem was slightly bigger then my tent. The whole of South Australia had gone off the grid. As a once-every-50-years-storm was still to hit South Australia over the next two days – with predicted wind speeds of up to 140km/h – we decided to take our tent down, before the wind did, and moved into a cabin. Like many South Australians that night, we got out some candles, a nice bottle of wine and hoped that all would go well for everybody in the affected area.
Room with a view
A little bit of luxury for a couple of days – together with friends we stayed at this extraordinary vacation home in Kiama. We all agreed that it was virtually impossible to get too much of this view – wouldn´t you agree?
I have heard lots of jokes about golf like this one: “To play golf is to spoil an otherwise enjoyable walk”. Now I can personally testify that there is a hidden truth in it (which wasn´t so hidden for anyone watching me play). While I was trying to drive a ball towards the red flag and almost injured an innocent elderly lady standing by. She just smiled at me and said “Oh, you are just beginning to play? Please, don´t give up!” Well, there are probably not many sports more humbling than golf. In the end it was an enjoyable walk – thankfully not spoilt too much.
After trying golf in the morning, the late afternoon with its scheduled wine tasting and dinner was back in my comfort zone. But the experimenting didn´t end, as there were some interesting wine varieties to be discovered at Crooked River Wines: Savagnin (white), Arneis (white) and Chambourcin (red). It also was the first wine farm I have come across, that has beer available for tasting and selling (Uncle Joe´s Pale Ale), which is brewed by the son of the owner!
Back in Sydney for a couple of hours
Taking visiting family back to the airport, we all had the chance for some more sightseeing in Sydney. As public transport in Sydney also includes the ferries that travel to and from Circular Quay, there is no need to book expensive harbour cruises to get a different angle on the Harbour and the Opera House!
Various ways to get lost
A beautiful destination on the Mornington Peninsula are the Maze Gardens of Ashcombe. You can get lost between classic hedges or thousands of roses – and if that is not enough, there is also a lavender maze. So choose for yourself, how you want to get lost!
A turkey-friendly Thanksgiving…
We are looking forward to Thanksgiving dinner later, which we are invited to. THANK YOU to the hosts already – one more thing to be thankful for. It doesn´t take much thinking to come up with loads of things to be thankful for. Some of them are described in the 80+ posts below but of course that´s not all! What I love about this day – and I am sure I am not alone in this – is that it puts the focus on the positive! So why don´t just keep it there?
Ocean Beach near Portsea
Only a short trip from Mornington, where we are staying at the moment, there are Sorrento and Portsea to the South. What distinguishes these places are not only the beautiful surroundings, but also a rather high density of luxury automobiles from Stuttgart in Germany (both brands) – if you are not sure what I am talking about, just google “car manufacturers Stuttgart”.
The Mornington Peninsula
Small colourful beach huts can be found all over the beaches of the Mornington Peninsula – the picture below was taken at the Dromana beach front. During the summer months, the whole Peninsula is very popular with Melbournians and other visitors, who come to appreciate the natural beauty, the wine farms and the culinary options that have developed here over the last decades. Well, we are out before everybody else comes in and are heading north to Melbourne!
Scienceworks in Melbourne is a great place for the young to discover (and for the grown-ups to re-discover) science. E.g. in the lightning room, where a huge Tesla coil is used to create real lightning. It´s part of a 30-minute live show on electricity. The show delivers a great reminder what happens if lightning strikes an aeroplane, a car, a bus shed or a golf player. Also nice: invent your own mobility concept for the future and have it displayed on a large screen! And that´s just two out of many things.
Strange critters at the Melbourne Museum
Good on us that we are only dealing with the skeletons and not “the real thing”. This weeks field trip was to the Melbourne Museum. Great exhibitions on the mind (e.g. can you name the six fundamental emotions?), the body, World War I, the forest, Aboriginal culture and Melbourne itself.
Royal Melbourne Moonlight Cinema
During the summer months, the Royal Melbourne Botanical Garden on some late evenings allows itself to be transferred into a huge open air cinema. You can upgrade your experience by renting a bean bag to lounge even more comfortably on the grass, while enjoying snacks and drinks and the movie – if it´s not “Allied”. That was the only drawback of an otherwise wonderful evening with friends at a stunning location! So when you come to Melbourne in the summer months, you might want to google “Moonlight Cinema”.
When you have friends that are farmers, it gives you options. Like the chance to get an extra workout. We volunteered to help bring in the hay – and yeah, no need to pay for any fitness studio! That being said, it was endless fun! Probably also, because we do not have to do it every year. On top of it, we learned the difference between hay and straw (straw is usually cut after the crop has been harvested of its stems).
The alternative for people who can´t surf: boogie boarding
Torquay usually attracts lots of surfers to famous Bells Beach. But you don´t have to be a surfer to enjoy Torquay. Just get a boogie board and you don´t have to worry about falling of any surfboard. Just enjoy the ride! Anything else required? Ah yes, sunshine and waves. The former was supplied by the Australian summer, the latter by Jan Juc Beach.
The 12 Apostles, or rather the remaining 8
The 12 Apostles along the Great Ocean Road was one of those places we definitely wanted to see! The name of the place obviously is from a time, when all 12 where still around, 4 have collapsed since and I wouldn´t be surprised if more are to disappear in the future. Anyway, what´s left is still impressive! Amazing what beauty can be created by erosion!
A practical little hub along the Great Ocean Road: Port Campbell
Port Campbell is nicely located to explore some of the most popular spots along the Great Ocean Road – like the 12 Apostles, the London Bridge and various other Arches and Gorges. That´s why we chose it as a base to do some leisurely exploring. And it just is a nice spot in itself. The Port Campbell Creek doesn´t always make it into the ocean, but that just has the added benefit of a direct beach access – it´s just a short walk from the campsite along the riverbed et voilà, build your sandcastle!
Blue Mountains – take a deep breath…
…and relax. The oil of the Eucalypt trees is what has given the Blue Mountains their name. It creates a blue haze which lingers over the treetops and which can be seen on clear days. Taking a deep breath is intoxicating and relaxing at the same time. Highlights for us were the famous rock formation “Three Sisters”, the Leura Cascades, Wentworth Falls, the Waradah Aboriginal Center and the fact that you can buy a 2hr scenic train ride from Sydney to Katoomba for 5,30AUD per person! That´s unbeatable public transport pricing!
Fire and Rain
Fire alarms in hotels – especially at night – usually lead to a small Pajama Party outside. It wasn´t any different in this case. We were told that something had gotten out of hand in the smokers room. Anyway, it wasn´t a big story and we all were able to go back into our rooms soon after, which allowed me to take this shot from our balcony. The lights of the fire fighting truck add an interesting ambiance to this rainy night.
First and last stop in Australia
This is blog post No 99. After visiting the Philippines, New Zealand and the Cook Islands we started our journey through Australia in Sydney. And now – 25.000km later and having seen but a small fraction of the country – Sydney is where it ends. The time has come to return home. We do so with a deep happiness and a great sadness. We are sad, because we are leaving behind truly wonderful people we had the privilege of being around. We are happy because we know that we were blessed to see some of the most beautiful places on this planet, that we had the unique chance to experience a great family time and last but not least – that we were able to use the time to learn, to reflect and to look forward. And having done that, we are happy to know, that the best lies still ahead of us!