Where were we? Oh yeah, in Cairns with a massive truck. We'd booked a 3 berth, but somehow we ended up with a six berth - great for the space inside, but slightly daunting when I had to think about driving it. A bit of a change from my usual little Peugeot. We set off, stopping briefly at a supermarket to get some supplies. By the time we came outside it was absolutely pouring down with rain, which I assumed would just be a short cloudburst before normal service was resumed. Oh, how wrong I was. Anyway, the driving forward was fine - and we got to our first campsite and I even managed to reverse successfully - albeit slowly - onto our pitch. We unpacked and settled in for the night, Sarah in the bed above the cab ...
(I must admit I didn't fight her for it) and me at the rear of the van. I fell asleep to the sound of rain pounding on the roof, and I dreamt of Yorkie bars and becoming Eddie Stobart's top driver.
I think the rain must have continued throughout the night, because the following day, every news bulletin kept talking about the phenomenal rainfall, and our plans to stay at Airlee Beach the following night were thwarted by the fact that it was completely cut off as all the roads were flooded. Mmmm. And this is Australia, right?
As a result, we had to spend the next night at Bowen - a fairly uninspiring town which is only known for two things - a giant 20 foot mango, and the fact that most of the film Australia, with Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman was filmed there a few years ago. So, unfortunately, we'd missed Hugh but at least we got to see the mango
and the sun made an all-too-brief appearance, after we'd heard reports that Bowen had had the heaviest rainfall in 24 hours for over 50 years. Just call me lucky.
Right, I'm not going to keep on banging on about the weather, except to say that it rained virtually everyday for ten days or so, and apparently it was Queenslands wettest September on record. (At one point I did say that next year I'm going to holiday in the Lake District or Wales for better weather).
Anyway, despite the rain we had a brilliant time - some of the highlights on our drive down were Hervey Bay - the only campsite we stayed at for two nights, so that we could visit Fraser Island - the worlds largest sand island, with miles of beaches, rain forest and freshwater lakes. We walked through the forests,
paddled in the lakes
and drove along the sand in a 4 wheel drive bus, and then back again.
Or at least Sarah went back in the bus, but I took a slightly more adventurous route back
Obviously, I'd like you to believe that I flew it all by myself, hence the 'Amelia Earhart' pose, but in fact we had a pilot and six other passengers. I couldn't convince Sarah to come with me, but she's not what you'd call a keen flier. It was certainly a great experience, and I can't image that I'll have too many opportunities to take off and land on a beach. Great views - rain forests look like giant broccoli from the air.
The following day, we had booked a trip to go Whale watching. They guarantee that you'll see whales, or you get your money back. I imagined that we might see a bit of a whale somewhere in the distance, but it absolutely surpassed all our expectations. We went out in a fast catamaran,
out past Fraser Island (you'll notice that the sun is shining!)
then parked up and after a short wait the whales appeared.
It was almost as if they were putting on a display for us,
with mothers showing off their calves and playing about right up close to the boat.
Absolutely brilliant and worth every penny of the trip.
Having left Hervey Bay, we stayed at Noosa for the night, then down to Brisbane, where we met up with my cousin Barbara, who took us for a walk at the seafront at Wynnum,
then to the Botanical Gardens
and to a lookout with fantastic views across the city
I'm glad Barbara was driving that day and I didn't have to negotiate our bus through the middle of Brisbane.
The following day we headed south again and stopped for lunch at Surfers Paradise, where the weather was glorious.
I guess we should have stayed there, because by the time we reached our next campsite, at Byron Bay, we were in the midst of yet another thunderstorm. We got soaked just connecting the van up to the electricity. Or at least Sarah did. Well, I was doing all the driving!
(Are you sure you're not bored yet?