Coming Home From Australia and New Zealand

IMG_4698I've started this post on the eve before I fly home to Canada from New Zealand. I've spent three months in Australia and one in New Zealand and while I'm excited to head home to my car, my family and my bed, I'm sad this trip is coming to an end.Having only driven and flown to a few place in North America previous to this trip, I didn't have much experience in overseas extended travel. I was about as green as they come when I landed in Sydney four months ago. Scared, excited and completely unaware of all the intricacies of travel, it took a while to figure everything out and become comfortable with it. Luckily I had arranged to meet a friend in Sydney when I got there so I wasn't totally alone. After that I hadn't  planned anything.I'm normally someone who likes to have things planned. It makes everything smoother and puts my mind at ease when I know 3 days from now where I'll be and what I'm doing. I'm also very lazy. I don't like to plan much because it is work. It requires reading, emailing, money and time. After reading so much on ditching the guide books and just do what comes up, I decided to give it a shot. I was in Australia and New Zealand during the winter, or low season, and I wasn't too worried about booking.My last minute plans were only disrupted a few times. The vast majority of the time I rocked up to whatever town I could find along the way and went with whatever happened. I don't recommend this way if you are on a tight schedule or absolutely have to stay at a certain place or do a particular activity but for me it worked well.Instead of driving around New Zealand like I did Australia, I switched it up a bit. I booked the best "hop on, hop off" bus I could find in New Zealand, the Magic Bus. What resulted was a very different trip than in Australia but one that I'm very fond of. Thinking back now, I had a better time in New Zealand because of the adventures and people I met on the bus.Back at home, I still second guess myself on which way I should look when crossing traffic. I highly recommend driving when there are other people on the road so you can follow them.If anyone has any questions or comments about the trip, please let me know in the comments down below!

The Island of Sand

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I wasn't sure what to expect when we got to Fraser Island. I had heard good things and I had heard bad things. Most people I talked to did a 3 day self drive and camped wherever they wanted and drove around the sand tracks and beach with a 9 to 11 person truck.   Just before I went, the gossip about Fraser was about the people who had been killed when their truck flipped on the beach. They swerved to avoid some water on the beach and the truck went over. Not exactly the ideal trip.Taking this into consideration and how much time I had I elected to do a 2 day bus tour of the island. They pick you up at your hostel, drop you off at the ferry, then drive you around the island for 2 days and show you the sights. Lodgings are provided at one of the resorts on the island and food is in the form of all you can eat buffets. I didn't complain. I don't mind when other people cook, clean and drive while I take pictures and take in the scenery.The first day took us near the North end of the island to Indian Head and the Champagne Pools. You can drive almost every place on the island using the narrow tracks in the woods but it's much faster to take the highway, the sand highway that is. Complete with speed limit signs shouting 80 km/h, the beach is how most of the traffic moves around the island. There are a few points where the headlands jut out into the water or the tide is too high and the track detours up and around into the woods, but you can nearly go from end to end on the wide sand highway.IMG_2166On the way up there, our drive along the highway took us past he wreck of the Maheno. Only the top rusted level is visible but there are still more than 3 levels buried in the sand. It was being towed away from Melbourne for scrap metal 1935 when it was caught in a cyclone and washed up on the shores of Fraser Island.The Champagne Pools are oversized tidal pools that the brave swim in. Bubbles coming up from the sand on the bottom give the water a bubbly look. Indian Head is the only pile of rocks on the island and the rest is the sand that drifts down the coast and catches on the rocks. The view from the top is fantastic and is only a 10 minute walk up, provided the weather cooperates. Our clouds couldn't decide what they wanted to do and we had competing rain and sun for the rest of the first day.IMG_2236Further down the beach are some beautiful rock formations called the Pinnacles and even further is Eli Creek. The creek is a famous attraction on the island and should be on everyone's todo list. The stream itself starts about 6k inland and continues all the way to the sea flowing quite quickly the whole way. An incredible amount of water comes through this creek every year. A small boardwalk takes tourists about 200 metres up the creek so they can see the lower section of it or hop right in and float their way down. It's only about 2-3 feet deep most of the way and makes for a good place to cool off on hot days. Be careful parking near the creek though, we had to help a smaller truck out of the deep sand near the entrance.The rain started to come down hard at this point so we retreated back to the Eurong Resort to find our rooms, clean up and hit the buffet. We all had 4-share or double rooms with a kitchenette and bathroom. We made it back to the resort just in time to see the rain start to pound down. I was one of the few sitting outside, albeit covered, in the rain and taking in the sound and the smell. I do like warm sunny days but there is nothing quite like relaxing to the sound of the rain.IMG_2258The next day we trucked it out to Lake Mackenzie, a 45 minute ride from the resort. It's one of the few perched lakes on the island which means it's completely rain water trapped in a depression by old vegetation. It was beautiful above the water and below. The water is crystal clear and an intense blue color reflected off the sky. I managed to swim around a bit and take a look underneath the surface. It sure didn't last long though, it was incredibly cold!IMG_2275Lake Wabby was our next destination and it was just up the beach. Instead of parking and walking right onto the beach there is a 45 minute walk through the woods and over the Hammerstone Sandblow to get to the water. The lake is essentially a stream that's been blocked by the sand blown up over the sandblow over time. The lake gets smaller by 2 meters every year so see it while you can, it won't be there forever. The sand drops down off the sandblow right into the water turning into thick forest on the other side. A few of our crew went for a swim but I couldn't get up the guts to do it again, I was still cold from my last encounter with the water. We watched as the brave few swam around circled by Salmon-tailed Catfish.After trading a few people at the resort we were on our way back to the ferry for the 35 minute trip back to the mainland. The barge took a little bit longer than expected to get into the canal beside the ramp care of an extremely low tide but after loading people and cars we were cruising off into the sunset and already missing the island of sand.IMG_2327Check out my Fraser Island Photo Set on flickr[gmap]