A Travellerspoint blog

Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef

A long weekend diving in the Great Barrier Reef

The plan was a couple of nights on the outer reef taking in 7 dives including one night dive and a night sleeping on board the dive boat.
We arrived in the sticky tropical heat on Thursday night, dumped our bags at the hostel (somethings don't change) and headed to town. Cairns is a pleasant small town which is a polite way of saying not too exciting. Still there is a man made lagoon for swimming (in an area full of crocs and sharks you need somewhere safe to take a dip) and we managed to find a nice bar to enjoy a cold drink and watch the sunset over the harbour. I'm sure there are worse places to be!
Early the next morning we boarded our boat for the 2 hour trip to the Great Barrier Reef, having had prior experience of dive boats we took appropriate doses of sea sickness meds, an idea which proved well worth it as the bottom deck slowly filled with people clasping sick bags and looking green round the gills.
Our first two dives were off the smaller transfer boat, the water was warm as a bath and the underwater sites just spectacular, fish aplenty with the occasional reef shark and giant sea slugs all against a background of colourful coral. After our dive we also took part in some of the snorkeling with the rest of the boat passengers not diving.
After lunch we moved to the overnight boat where we had two more dives that day including a night dive. The first dive we'd forgotten all navigation skills and ended up swimming a fair way back to the boat above water - not an easy task in the choppy waters. The night dive was made a little more hair raising when just prior to jumping in we looked over the back of the boat to see four or five 6ft reef sharks off swimming where we would shortly be jumping in. After being convinced that they were harmless (terrified of us apparently, the feeling is mutual!) we had a great dive by torchlight.
Our first dive the next day was at 6.30am, briefing at 6am! We had three dives on our second day, each with new surprises and odd looking fish and coral, but there was one thing which alluded us and it was the thing Rosa most wanted to see, a sea turtle. At this point everyone else seemed to had seen one but with our last dive fast approaching we hadn't even had a glimpse.
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Lunchtime bought our final dive and our last chance to see our prize, we decided to stick to the shallows, turtle territory. Halfway through the dive we did an about turn and to my surprise (I had given up) there he/she was! Rosa did an underwater squeal, nearly lost her regulator (the bit you need to breathe) and we spent the rest of the dive with an underwater guide, as we followed the turtle where ever it went!
Back on shore that evening we met up with some friends from the boat for some dinner, drinks and a glance at some very strange Cairns locals prowling the bars on a Saturday night.
Sunday our flight left late afternoon so we rented a car for the day and aimed to check out the nearby tablelands, a lush green area peppered with waterfalls, lakes and dairy farms as well as plenty of jungle. After completing the circuit we headed to the airport, earlier than Rosa would have liked but later than I would have, and said Goodbye to Cairns as we headed back to Sydney.

Posted by Time Well Spent 01:38 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Sydney Fireworks

Celebrating the New Year, Hawaiian style in Sydney for the Fireworks.

Posted by Time Well Spent 14:23 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Summer Christmas

Christmas in Melbourne, Drinking wine in the Yarra Valley and the Great Ocean Road

With Christmas finally upon us we headed to the Victorian state to spend Christmas with some friends in Melbourne. Christmas day was spent with the traditional bucks fizz for breakfast, followed by a day at St Kilda beach. In traditional Aussie style we cooked up some snags and shrimps on the Barbie and had a game of cricket.

Boxing day for some of us was pretty relaxed, spent watching Christmas movies and visiting Brighton Beach, a beach just like Brighton, with the colourful huts, only there is sand, while others went down the MCG for the Boxing Day test cricket.

Once the Christmas excitement was over we headed out to the Yarra Valley, where our friends took us round some of the wineries, a dairy and a chocolatier. After a day of drinking wine, eating too much cheese and chocolate we headed back for a quiet night in.

Up early the next day we hit the road again, this time to take on the Great Ocean Road, one of the world’s most scenic ocean drives, or so we were told. They’re not wrong, it was 150 miles of stunning views. Here are just some of the snaps we took of the scenery.
Belles Beach
The Remembrance Arch
In the Rainforest
IMG_5936.jpg Koala!
The 12 Apostles.
Loch Ard Gorge
London Bridge

Along the way we stopped at Belles beach, a famous surfing beach with some angry looking waves; the remembrance arch to remember all the returned soldiers that died building the road; Apollo bay, where we stopped for pies; the rainforest; Loch Ard gorge, the 12 apostles; and London Bridge, a natural rock formation that used to look like London bridge until half of it collapsed in the seventies. We also made a stop along the way where the Koalas hang out, so we finally got to see them in the wild along with some Kangaroos! We finished up in Port Campbell for some dinner before making the three hour inland drive back to the city.

Our final day in Melbourne, before we all headed back to Sydney for New Year’s was spent exploring some of the city, having another game of cricket on St Kilda beach and watching the sunset. All in all, it was an awesome Christmas.

Posted by Time Well Spent 14:06 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Spit to Manly walk

The Spit Bridge to Manly walk is a 10km, only slightly undulating walk. We set off on the bus to the bridge and after a rather hairy road crossing taking nearly ten minutes (it was a four lane road, with no lights and constant traffic. Seriously, who puts the start of a popular walk in such a perilous place) we were off.
We lucked out with the weather and the scenery was stunning. Jimmy had printed the walk notes so kept us all informed about the landmarks, including some questionable Aboriginal engravings. I'm pretty sure it was weather erosion. Supposedly the area has a penguin colony, which is how we'd convinced Jimmy to go, but it seems they didn't fancy hanging around for the day as we didn't encounter a single one.
After arriving in Manly and looking in awe at some of the houses, complete with harbour views and swimming pools, we headed to the Four Pines brewery and bar for a well deserved lunch and a beer.

Posted by Time Well Spent 16:10 Archived in Australia Comments (0)


Not so sunny Melbs

After nearly ten months we finally made it to Melbourne(!), which was originally going to be where we decided to live, but for some reason landed in Sydney and never left. But nevertheless we made it to Melbourne eventually.
As far as cities go it's a good one. It's not as picturesque as Sydney but it does make up for this with heaps of decent bars and good food. We arrived on Friday evening so naturally the first place we visited was a bar. Melbourne is pretty hipster and there is a joke that all their bars are left at the bins, down an alleyway and into the basement. Melbourne did not disappoint. The first bar we were taken to (Fall from Grace) was through another bar, out the back and through a bookshelf. Behind the bookshelf was an amazing speakeasy bar. After a swift one there we went into china town and filled up on dumplings before going left at the bins down the road to the next bar, Sister Bella.
The next day we were taken along the sea front (they do also have beaches there!), which we were surprised to see. Not as good as Sydney's beaches but hey, we're from England, so any beach that gets some sun is a winner. We were headed to St Kilda where we met up with some of our friends for brunch before heading back to theirs for a game of ping pong. After a quick walk through South Melbourne markets we headed over to the river and pitched up in a lovely cafe/bar called the Boat Builders where we spent the afternoon and met some more of our friends living in Melbourne. After a few drinks at the next bar, which was under a bridge, we made our way to the casino.
We spent a few hours watching the Aussie Rules Football game. Despite having a proper Australian explain it to us we are only slightly more clued in and still not remotely interested. Luckily the rugby was also on another screen. After an Elvis impersonator, more drinks and losing $20 on the roulette we decided to call it quits at the casino and head home.
On our final day we went our for another delicious and well needed brunch before meeting up with our friends again and taking a look around the Queen Victoria market. It's the biggest market in Melbourne and you can get some useful things there along with the usual tourist toot; fake Ugg boots, cuddly toy koalas and Australia hats. We just bought donuts. They were freshly made, warm and tasty.
Before we left to catch the plane back to Sydney I had to check out the H&M. It only opened in Melbourne a few months ago and the queues were around the block. It is the only one in Australia and I felt it would be rude not to have a look (and the queues have now subsided - thank goodness). It's in an amazing building but you won't be surprised to know, it's just like H&M in the UK and not all that exciting. By the time we got back we were well and truly exhausted, but we had an awesome weekend and will definitely be going back again soon.

Posted by Time Well Spent 01:42 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

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