A Travellerspoint blog

Friday 18th April - Day 75

Jesus' Retreat

I'm at a hostel called Southerncross, 1770 (this number is the actual name of the town (something to do with the year 1770 and Captain Cook) near Agnes waters. I've been told it's probably one of the best hostels in Australia. As I walk in and approach the reception desk I'm greeted by one of the residents, a Swedish guy named Martin. I'm sure he's heard it a million times before, but he looks like the pictures you see of Jesus. He's not wearing white robes, but his bearded face nad hair matches the image. Ironically, he recently graduated with a degree in Islamic studies. Unfortunately, we don't get a chance to socialise very much in the two days I am at southern cross.

It's always (well nearly always) good to make friends and I'm glad Martin went to the trouble of introducing himself and giving me a run down of what it's like here. There are about 30 residents, and most of them are in their little cliques it seems. They call this place a retreat and there are little chill out areas and more space than other hostels. Generally, it's quite a nice place to be and people tend to stay here for a while.

The nearest place with shops is 4 km away and a regular free shuttle takes you there. Five minutes walking distance from the shops is a beach. There are a number of locals who visit the the beach, some with their children and surf boads. It is a huge, brown, clean, sandy beach like most I've seen in Australia. It must be great to have it on your doorstep. There are only about twenty small shops, cafes, etc around here and not much else.

I make friends with a couple of guys back at the hostel who show me photos of their trip here in Australia on their laptop. I'm not going to the outback and some other places they have been to and it's interesting to hear their views of Australia.

Posted by rajchopra 01:19 Comments (0)

Thursday 17th April - Day 74

Whitsunday Islands

'Camira' is written on my itinerary. I realise this morning that this is the name of the Catamaran that is taking us to the Whitsunday Islands. It rained quite a bit last night, I wonder if the trip will be cancelled. I leave the hostel at 7:00am to catch the bus and get to the harbour.

It's an impressive looking boat. It was previously know as Tsunami but had its name changed in respect to the events of 2004. I read it cost $2million Australian dollars and can carry about eighty passengers. There's only about thirty of us and and I'm glad there aren't more because the seating would have been a bit tight. As we start our journey the weather is getting worse. At one point the rain is lashing down and one of the crew members is wearing divers face mask; I guess he's doing it as a joke. The journey to our first destination will take quite a while which gives us time to get to know each other. Not for the first time, the friendliest people I talk to are Germans. You would think the British might be more approachable once they see you have an English accent, in which case, at least for me sometimes, this is not the case.

An older retired gentleman tells me about his work for NATO. I've never met anybody who's worked for NATO. He could have told me anything I suppose, but his life story is an interesting one. I'm not going to be repeating it here.

At times the rain stops and a few of us venture outside; except for one crazy/eccentric Canadian who has been outside most of the time even during the worst rain. After a few hours we finally reach Whitehaven beach. Amazingly, the weather has turned and it's nice and sunny now.

We're taken by a small motorised boat to the beach while lunch is being prepared for us on board the catamaran. For an hour or so we play beach cricket or just sunbathe. I could get use to this - I wish. On board we have a big a la carte lunch. I venture to try the seafood too as I'm sure it's all fresh.

Next we're off to another site where we can do some snorkeling if we wish. As the snorkelers are getting off the catamaran and on to their boat, we notice a school of dolphins. Slowly we try and get as close as we can on the catamaran. The dolphins make sure they keep their distance, but at least we get to see them. Seeing them jump out of the water is a bit too much to ask for. We head back to the harbour.

In the evening I meet up with three of the German guys, Kaleb, Anna and Elona, I met on the catamaran. We go for a drink in a bar/pub, order food and drink to the background of a live band. They all get embarrassingly drunk and are thrown out of the bar (only joking) they said they might read my blog. Actually, it was a pleasant evening and we say goodbye.

I have to catch a greyhound bus at 11:55 in the evening. This isn't ideal as I didn't want to be traveling at night but that's how it's turned out.

Posted by rajchopra 16:52 Comments (1)

Wednesday 16th April - Day 73

The Inside of a bus

Greyhound bus is to be a major mode of transport for a while. The journey starts at 7:30 am and finishes at 6:30pm at Airlie beach. It's just enough time to have a look around in the evening.

The hostel, called Magnums, is packed with a few hundred backpackers and has a very small kitchen. I'm glad I won't be here too long, just the one night.

I'm looking forward to the boat trip tomorrow.

Posted by rajchopra 03:43 Comments (0)

Tuesday 15th April - Day 72

Cape Tribulation and Port Douglas

Cape Tribulation is known for it's unique demarcation between rainforest and the great barrier reef where two world heritage sites meet. Port Douglas is a place where very rich people like to live. Having booked most of my tours for the rest of of my time in Australia I just need to make sure I'm at the right place at the right time.

At 7:30am I'm picked up from the hostel by a guide in a minibus. Another fellow hosteler, named Shirley from England, is on the tour and we strike up a conversation. For the most part, people I have met travel as 'backpackers' to see the great 'sights' of the world, whether it be something like the Taj Mahal, Sydney Opera house or what ever, but Shirley has left the comfort of her suburban life to also join in voluntary projects - like helping teach poor children of railway workers in Mumbai, India. I listen to stories of the struggle to teach these children, some of whom have no shoes let alone books to study from. This for me, and I'm sure for anyone else who might hear about it, is a noble pursuit and I admire her for it.

Having picked up all passengers for the excursion, we head toward Cape Tribulation. The guide and driver, named Cindy, keeps us fully entertained with jokes and observations of the landscape around us. It's like she's on holiday and we're there accompanying her as her audience. She is very entertaining. We get to our destination, which is a short walk through the rain forest. Looking around seeing unfamiliar looking trees, vegetation and insects is nothing like a lecture, although we all learn something. At one point Cindy picks up an ant. She grabs it between her thumb and first finger and invites people in the group to lick the ant's behind. You must be joking, I think. What the heck is all that about ? When nobody agrees to try it she shows us how it's done. After a few licks the ant secretes something that tastes a little lemony. Apparently, and who knows how this was discovered, Aborigine's use this as a source of vitamin C or something; if someone feels under the weather. Someone in our group (not me) volunteers to try and confirms that you do get a taste after licking. Well, who would have thought it ? I'm in no hurry to see if this works while I am able to buy vitamin tablets from the supermarket. In fact, I think can get away without vitamins, but I wouldn't want to stop anyone else doing it.

We are given time to do a little exploring around the forest and swim in a pool under a small waterfall/rapid. All too quickly, the time ticks by. We then head to Port Douglas. Port Douglas seems a little seaside towns in England. There are plenty of souvenir shops, cafe's, pubs and restaurants to visit. After an hour or so we are back in the minibus and heading back to our hostels.

In the evening I meet up with Shirley and we go for a meal at the local Indian restaurant. It's owned by a Punjabi owner who says he visits India every year and knows Jullundhar and Banga. He puts me on the spot and wants me to speak to him in Punjabi; I pass the test. Did he think I was joking that I am 'Punjabi' too? The food we order doesn't disappoint. Actually, spicy food always seems more filling and I can't eat all that I've ordered. It's been an enjoyable and fully packed day. I say goodbye to Shirley and wish her well in her travels and the next project she is going to.

Posted by rajchopra 04:22 Comments (2)

Monday 14th April - Day 71

Pinch yourself

Diving at the great Barrier Reef. I'm sure I've seen this in one of those '101 things you must do before you die' type lists they have in magazines sometimes.

The two hour journey to the Reef by a speedy boat is an unpleasant one. I desperately feel I'm about to be sick thanks to the choppy seas. As soon as the boat stops I begin to feel a little better. It was worse on the way back.

As a team of six of us are under water, we are all acutely aware of this iconic place. Ideally, I would have liked to have seen turtles, sharks, anything out of the ordinary, but it was not to be. Nevertheless, I did see many fish of many colours including clown fish (Nemo) and many others I couldn't name. To be on the Great Barrier Reef and see this underwater world that is shaped by nature not man is a memorable experience. That's pretty cool, pinch yourself.

One of the divers is quite inexperienced and he descends too quickly into the water. As a consequence he has a bleeding nose and can't carry on the dive. He is taken back to the surface by the master diver and then back to the main boat.

After the first dive we are taken to a small island where the snorkellers from our main group are. And we get a chance to sunbathe for a while before returning to the main boat where a buffet lunch is served. Five of us then go for a second dive at a second location.

Another day goes by very quickly.

Posted by rajchopra 08:46 Comments (2)

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