11th of September, 2001

11th of September, Brisbane to Hervey Bay

Half of the day on the bus, listening to Travis – The invisible band, my favourit CD on this trip… I guess most of the people don’t know Hervey Bay, but if I mention Fraser Island, probably everyone will say “Ahhhh – biggest sand-island of the world! ” Right, and Hervey Bay is the place you arrive at if you want to explore Fraser Island. Hervey Bay itself doesn’t offer a lot, a bit of beach, a bit of nightlife, but nothing real important. The real impressive happening in Hervey Bay takes place between about 6:00 and 8:30 pm. Thousands of “fruit bats” huge and scary-looking animals occupy the sky.

12th of September,
I don’t feel in the mood to write about what happened in Brisbane, instead I decided to share my day at Harvey Bay, Fraser Island. The day started very early, at 4:00 am. I didn’t had a clue at this time about what had happened just a couple of hours before on the other side of the world. I first got the news on the boat, and thought the tour guide made a very sick joke. But I wasn’t sure… He was too serious, too much details, so I took my binoculars and looked at the TV-screen of another boat across the pier. I saw a fire-fighters and started to believe the story of our tour guide. Yet, it was hard to believe.

We then started our tour to watch one of the most beautiful and peaceful creatures in the world, whales, to be exact ‘hunchback whales, the fifth largest animal in the world. The first whale I saw was jumping out of the water, a very powerful moment. We later watched a group of four whales and followed them about 2 hours before we had to go back.

The five hours on the boat went by very fast, we all talked about the possibility of the story the tour guide told us, if this could be true.

All my fears came true when we finally got back to the harbour and I first walked into a restaurant which had the TV set switched on. I had planed to rent a bike that day, to go around Hervey Bay, but that was impossible for me. Instead I spend the whole day at the hostel, following the shocking news from New York. I have a relative in New York, and of course the whole Worldsurface crew, which I knew work at Wall Street.

It was a big relive to read that the whole worldsurface team was doing well, and I feel very sorry for all those, who where on the planes, in the World Trade Centre or at the Pentagon. Thanks for updating the page and sharing your thoughts, even during such a horrible event!

Hervey Bay was a very quiet and strange place that day, everybody was talking about what had happened that day, and a taxidriver told me it was the most quiet day for him ever since. It’s hard to believe what happened, I know that the world has changed that morning, it’s never going to be the same again.

Sailing the Whitsunday Islands

13th of September to 14th of September
It’s hard to describe what I did between the 13th and the 14th of September, the two days I had to wait in Airlie Beach, before I could go on the boat for the sailing trip. How do you describe doing nothing, and at the same try to make it sound interesting?
But here is the true story: I spend most of the time at the beach or walking around. That’s about all I did those two days. It’s hard to go for a swim, from October until May its simply forbidden because of the jelly boxfish, a very deadly animal. Most of the people just spend there time on the beach, catching up a tan, or, if they spend to much time on the beach, a sunburn.

Friday night was finally the night I got on the boat, together with eight other travellers and 7 crew members. Yep, SEVEN crew members to take care of nine people. The reason for such a big crew was because two of them were in training and the skipper (captain) was with his wife. A very funny and nice crew, Daniel, a very funny bloke (Aussie for guy) , was our dive instructor, Clyde, the master diver, Hanna and Helen, who spend most of the time in the kitchen, Mike, who was training to be a skipper, and finally Peter, the skipper and his wife Nelly. To name the other travellers on the boat: Phillip and Christian (from Germany), Sarah, John and David (from Sidney), Steven (from USA), and finally Matt and Julian (from the UK). The name of the boat was “Romance”, ironically, eight of us nine were male…

15th of September
The 15th of September, which we most spent at the Bait Reef, started with some swimming around the boat, watching and feeding huge fishes. I was able to catch the fin of a big black fish, but the fish went mad and was able to get rid of me. Later Nelly told me that those fishes do attempt to bite people who disturb them. Lucky me…

I don’t have a diving license (yet), so the only things I could do on this tour was to snorkel and do a resort dive. Daniel took me out to the reef and I snorkelled around for about 1,5 hours. The underwater world of the Great Barrier Reef is just amazing, very colourful corals all over and an uncountable amount of fishes and other animals. We where also lucky to see a “bad tide” a natural phenomenon that happens about 5 times a year. A very strong low tide makes the top of the reef become visibly upon the water surface.

But the snorkelling wasn’t the major event of that day, it was my first “resort dive”. After some instructions from David about how to use the diving gear, the time has come for my very first real underwater experience. I learned how to get rid of water in the mask while diving and how to breath. We first started with some breathing exercises and then made our way down to the ground by using the rope of the anchor. I always had to equalise the pressure in my ears, which was not such a big problem then I thought. We went down about ten meters and I was able to see an amazing “wood” of corals for the first time of my life. The whole diving trip lasted for about forty minutes, and I have to admit, one of the best forty minutes in my life! If you go on a sailing trip at the Great Barrier Reef, do at least a resort dive! You don’t need any experience in diving but it would be handy if you are able to swim 😉 !The day continued with some sailing to a place called Mantaray Bay, where the diving team went for a night dive. On the way to Mantaray Bay I was able to see dolphins as they swam along the boat and jumped out from time to time, just like in Titanic.

16th of September, Whitsunday Island
Captain Cook himself named the island after he sailed through them on Whit Sunday. It wasn’t actually Whit Sunday when he sailed through them, because he didn’t thought about the fact that he had crossed the international Date line. We stopped at the island and hiked up to “Tongue Point” (I wonder where that name came from…) to get the best view for “Whiteheaven Beach”. Whiteheaven Beach is about six kilometres long, white sand and blue water, as far as you can see. Unfortunately we had only two hours there, not enough time to enjoy the full beauty of the beach. The reason why this beach did not became my “perfect beach” was the fact that it was the only beach in this area where people got killed by sharks (two shark attacks within one week). The rest of the day was again sailing as we wanted to reach South Molle Island before it would get dark. The day ended with some drinking games, such as “Captain Cook took his first drink”, I’ve never ever…, I kiss the ping little pig on… etc.

17th of September, South Molle Island
My last day on the boat – unfortunately… We stopped at the South Molle Island before we sailed back to Airlie Beach. South Molle Island, which lies in the heart of the 74 Wthitsunday Island has it’s own golf course, some very nice walking tracks and a huge swimming pool. Most of the crew stayed on the “Romance” while we (the travellers) enjoyed half of the day, relaxing at the swimming pool and exploring the island. It was really hard to leave this pacific paradise to sail back to the “real world”. The day ended as many tours ended before, the crew went out to a bar with us and we chatted about the days we had spent together, changed email addresses and had a few beers together.

Magnetic Island, Cairs and Cape Tribulaton

18th of August to 20th of September, Magnetic Island
Three days on the island next to Townsville. Almost every place in this area was named by James Cook (or after him) and so was Magnetic Island… When ‘good old James’ sailed by this island the ship’s compass went funny… anything else you need to know? By the way, highest mountain on the island is – Mount Cook – I’m wondering where that came from…

I also met Jane again, for all of you who haven’t followed my trip so far, I met Jane first on the tour to the Kakadu National Park. Magentic Island offers a lot of cheap hostels for backpackers, I stayed at Geoff’s place at Horshoe Bay, (fifty dollars for two nights and return ferry ticket).

Unfortunately it was very cloudy during my stay on the island, and instead of spending my time on the beach I did some hiking. Magnetic Island offers some very interesting hiking trips.

My favourite was ‘Arcadia Walk’ which is about five kilometres, once you made it up to the top of the hills you get rewarded with a scenic few over the island.
My last bus ride in Australia, from Townsville to Cairns, took me trough an amazing rainforest and some very interesting villages, such as “Mission Beach”. Mission Beach is a very famous place for backpackers among the east coast. Unfortunately I was in a hurry and couldn’t spend some time there so I just got of the bus for a short walk and to look around. Five people where already waiting to pick up backpackers, one of them dressed like Bob Marley, wearing a fancy hat and hairs like he had never washed or cut them in his life.

I arrived in Cairns in the early evening, similar to Mission Beach, a lot of people where already waiting at the bus station to offer accommodation. Unfortunately I had already booked at the Central YHA and it seemed that the YHA was the only hostel to not offer a courtesy bus, so I had to walk there. Even on the way to the hostel cars would stop by and ask me where I was going to stay and offered me a lift to other backpacker hostels.

I finally arrived at the YHA after a 20-minute walk. It was quit hot that day and I was already a bit upset that the hostel didn’t offered a lift, but to make the whole thing even worse, the stuff was quit unfriendly. This is the only time I’m going to do this, but I do not recommend staying at the Central YHA in Cairns. The atmosphere was very impersonal, the stuff in a bad mood during my whole stay and every time I wanted a mug for a cup of coffee or a fork or spoon, I had to go to the reception to borrow it from them.

I mostly stayed in YHA in Australia during my trip, and the stuff was most of the friendly, especially in Darwin, Adelaide, Sydney and Alice Spring, but I regret that I stayed at the Central YHA in Cairns.

I better change the subject before I go and phone the hostel in Cairns… There is also a very funny story I want to share!

21. September, Cape Tribulation
One-day tour to the world heritage rainforest… Air-conditioned 4wd vehicle, swim in crystal clear water, delicious lunch including tropical fruit, just to name a few specifications in the brochure about the tour I was doing that day. A small coloured brochure and the cheapest tour to Cape Tribulation, I was looking forward to a day with fellow backpackers and perhaps, some nice girls. Oh boy, I was sooo wrong! First of all, I was the only backpacker on the tour, all other tour members got picked up at cheap places such as Courtyard by Marriot… But there is more to come! Eight of them (four couples by the way) where in their late 60s or even early 70s, dressed nicely and wearing shoes like they where going to a party. Sounds like fun? What about a gay and lesbian couple? Unbelievable?

I promise this is absolutely true! I have to confess they didn’t tell me that they where gay or lesbian, but the behaviour of both couples were just too obvious. Especially the gay couple… I don’t want to share too many details, but the whispering of the older people and their strange views nearly got me to the point where I wanted burst out loud. Somehow I managed to resist this temptation. But back to the tour, I do saw some very interesting stuff that day, not only on the bus! Our first stop was at the Daintree River, were we had a guided tour about the wildlife in and around the river. The tour guide was very funny, and kept making jokes all the time. I saw some crocodiles and birds, and, for the first time in Australia, snakes that where actually alive – but not poison at all. I was always told that the most dangerous animals live in Australia, but I have to admit, haven’t even seen one of those animals (beside the crocodiles).

We continued our tour with a visit at the Mossman Gorge and an interesting rainforest walk. After lunch we finally arrived at Cape Tribulation. Cape Tribulation was actually named by an old friend of mine, – James Cook, who had some serious troubles with his ship in this area (it ran onto the Endeavor Reef). He got really upset and decided to name a few more spots, such as Mt Sorrow, Weary Bay and the island Hope (he thought he could fix his ship at the island).

After a very nice walk at the beach of Cape Tribulation we finally headed south, back to Cairns.. On the way back we stopped at the “Daintree Ice-cream Company”, which sells excellent ice-cream made from fruits that grown in the area, our last stop was at a sugar cane factory. Before the tourists arrived in this area it’s major income was the manufactory of sugar. Nowadays it’s still a very important part of the economy in the region and there are plenty of sugar cane fields along the road. between Cairns and Cape Tribulation.

Darwin and Litchfield National Park

22nd of September, Cairns back to Darwin
After my adventures at Cape Tribulation and a relaxing morning in Cairns, the time had come to say ‘Good Bye’ to Queensland. I have to admit, the time had passed by really fast, but on the other hand, the two weeks travelling from Brisbane up to Cairns and Cape Tribulation where full of unforgettable moments. After a last walk around Cairns I finally made my way to the airport. For me, it was the first time checking in and going on a plane after the events of the 11th of September. Even in Cairns, thousands and thousands of miles away from New York or Afghanistan, the security-procedure had change.

Everything with even the little possibility to be used as a weapon had to be removed from hand luggage. But more important, I had changed too. I was certainly much more aware of what was going on around me; I thought about everything in my bag that could be used as a weapon. I also started looking at other travellers that where sitting around me. I felt bad for checking out other people, but on the other hand, I just couldn’t find anything else to think about. There weren’t a lot of people at the airport at all; you might have heard that one of the largest carriers in Australia, Ansett, had collapsed. Some shops and the fast food restaurant were closed and had notes on the door that, due the collapse of Ansett, and the lack of passengers that came along with that, they couldn’t open for business. I was really lucky that I had booked a flight with Quantas in Sydney before Ansett went bankrupt.

The flight wasn’t a non-stop flight; we landed at “Nhulunbuy” or Gove, a little airport in the middle of nowhere. Most of the passengers where highly surprised when the stewardess announced that we would land in “Gove”, a place most of us never heard of before. Nhulunbuy is about half way between Cairns and Darwin. As far as I could find out, an airport founded during the Second World War. The whole airport was a very small building, a shop with souvenirs and two little check-in counters. I saw an old Apple Computer, like from the late 80s, but that was the only piece of technology at the airport. After the short brake in “Gove” we finally continued our flight on to Darwin.

23rd of September, c
I wanted to finish my tour around Australia with something special, something to remember, funny and not too much driving at all (which means, by the way, “only” 350 kilometres that particular day). Something really rare in Australia… Litchfield seemed to offer all that, and, fortunately it kept its promises, lots of waterfalls and the opportunity to swim in crystal clear water. It took me 8 tours in Australia to finally get a female tour guide, and she did a real good job. We started at the Florence Falls, also our first opportunity to swim, but a group of drunken “party-travellers’ kept me away from my first refreshment because they had occupied the whole pool. But the “Wangi Falls”, offered an even better opportunity to swim and it was also less frequented. Next on the tour was an short hiking trip to the Tolmer Falls, closed for swimming because of bats that life in a cave at the bottom of the falls. Our last chance of refreshment was at the Buley Rockholes, a great spot to get an excellent “aqua back massage”. Just sit in one of the holes and let the water ran over your back! The last stop was at the “Magnetic Termite Mounds”, an area with many termite hills, the biggest one more then six meters high (about 21 feet).

After the return to Darwin I decided to visit the weekend market at Mindil Beach. I unfortunately had to watch a quiet nasty scene between two Aboriginal. First I saw a group of Aboriginal, sitting on the street, playing their didgeridoos and singing to make some money. Very peaceful compared to those Aboriginal I had seen downtown in Darwin, Alice Springs and Cairns. When I returned later, one of the Aboriginal men was arguing with a woman about the money, and finally screamed “Give me that f****** money!!! It’s really sad to see that so many Aboriginal have problems with alcohol, or are just sitting around in the city and arguing with each other. I hope they find a way to a new kind of “Aboriginal Culture”. I don’t think they can go back to the old times, but I’m sure they can live their old traditions and at the same time find a new way of life.

24th of September, Sweet home Alabama…
I knew that day would come, but it was hard to finally leave Australia, this wonderful country/continent/island or however you would call it – where I spend almost six weeks, where I travelled more then14.000 kilometres, where I met new and old friends, and most important, wouldn’t have to carry around toilet paper with me all the time (like I had to Thailand).

I knew the Airport in Darwin, I had been there twice, but this time it was like hell on earth for me. I was waiting at the check-in counter, when a old men passed by, stopped, turned around, looked at me and said: “Where ever you go, you’re not gona make it” How would you feel about something like that? I was confused, a bit scared, thought about the possibility to not go on the plane, looked at my right site and realised that three guys from Pakistan where standing beside me. I didn’t knew anything about those people, just that that they had passports from Pakistan, but it increased my fears a lot. I have nothing against people from Pakistan or any other country in the world (including Iraq and Afghanistan), but it was just not the right time to see them checking in for the same flight. To make this situation even worse, I switched on my CD player and the first song to start was “Sweet Home Alabama” (singer died during an air crash). But, as I’m typing this, sitting in the youth hostel in Bangkok, you should already know that everything went fine. I don’t believe in fate (but I was relieved when the plane finally landed in Bangkok), I don’t trust in old stupid men, I had a nice chat with the guys from Pakistan and I switched of my CD player.