On Wednesday, late morning, we checked out of the hotel and walked couple of hundred meters to the central train station where we took the an hour long train to the Gold Coast.
The Gold Coast is a tourist city full of skyscrapers alongside the beach. After a bit of searching we found our hotel (Meriton Suites again). At check-in we were pleasantly surprised when we learned that our room is going to be in 53rd floor with a view over the sea. This was by far the highest I ever slept and the view was fantastic. The hotel also had an indoor and outdoor swimming pool with fitness and sauna. The apartment was a bit smaller than the one in Brisbane but more than enough spacious.
For these last days we decided to take it easy. We spent most of the time watching tv, cooking, swimming and going for a strolls through the city. Since city stretches for some length along the beach, we used local tram to get from one end to other faster.
Both mornings we were waken by a gorgeous sunrise over the sea.
On Friday morning we had a flight scheduled at 8AM, so we were up at 6 and ready to leave. Just when we checked out however, we got an SMS that our flight was cancelled. After trying to get TigerAir (airline) on the phone. I guess everyone was also tying to do that since we arrived at the airport (1 hour away) before they picked up. The airport was full of stranded people, the reason why the flight (and others) were cancelled was because there was strong wind in Sydney so planes couldn’t land there. For some reason we could not get an alternative flight before Sunday afternoon which was too late for us, since we had flight back to Europe at 3PM. We looked at option for renting a car, but since we would have to leave it in Sydney it would cost us around 400€ (the flight ticket was around 60€/person) (btw which we didn’t get refunded, but only got 60€ positive balance if we book another flight in the next 6 months, which we obviously cannot do!! 🙁 furthermore my company ensured me for 100k€ but of course flight being cancelled was not included so I didn’t get anything from insurance either).
Left with no other option we had no choice but to book another bus to Sydney. After another 16 hours overnight (and day) with bus we arrived to Sydney, tired and cranky, on Saturday morning. We were quite upset about this, since we lost whole Friday and half of Saturday.
On Tuesday morning the only trip we had planned well in advances was about to happen. First stop was local car dealership where we rented a car. I was quite nervous driving through such a big city on the opposite side of the road for the first time, but after an hour or so I got used to it. The car had automatic transmission which helped a lot, since I didn’t have to shift with my left hand. I did however turn on the wipers couple of times instead of the turn signal.
After about an hour and half of driving we reached our destination The Australian Zoo. The zoo was first created by legendary Steve Irwin – the crocodile hunter and is now run by his family.
The ZOO is quite large, about 2 or 3 times the size of the Koala sanctuary. The whole philosophy of the zoo is that you can book private encounters with most of the animals they have. This one is to some degree more traditional zoo as they also have animals not native to Australia, like giraffes, rhinos and so on. Speaking of foreign animals the first thing we had planned after coming, was encounter with lemurs. We were very excited about it for quite some days already. ZOO keeper told us everything we needed to know on our way to the island where lemurs lived. To reach the island we had to go on a small raft and as we were closing toward the island lemurs were already running around the landing port waiting eagerly for us. We brought food for them after all.
They were soon all over us and we had a chance to take some photos while they were standing on our shoulders. Despite their look they are quite heavy and having one on shoulders ruins ones posture. 🙂
After the photo shooting we sat on a close by rock and zookeepers gave us some food that we could give them. By the looks of it they eat everything from vegetables to meat. They had great variety of food to choose from but they seemed to really like peas as they picked them out and ate them first. We had the opportunity to touch/pet them meanwhile (especially on their tail). If the kangaroo’s fur was soft before, it was nothing compared to lemurs. It is hart to describe but their fur was softer than silk. It would be perfect pillow material.
Time flew and after about half an hour it was time for us to leave. We had high expectations about this encounter even before arriving to Australia and Veronika and I both agree that it was worth it. It is simply hard to express how cool it was, all I can say is if you ever happen to be in Australia, it’s worth taking a plane just to visit this zoo and have an encounter with lemurs.
After the lemurs we had to hurry to catch the show this zoo is most famous about – the crocodile show. The show is held in the arena and they demonstrate some tricks with a bunch of birds and of course the crocodile. Surprisingly I preferred the birds part compared to crocodile. They had great variety of birds from parrots, cockatoos to enormous condor. Seriously that thing was about 3-4m over the wings. The funniest part was when they trained a cockatoo to go to a random visitor and take 5$ bill out of his hand (you can see this in the video below).
After the birds they brought out a giant crocodile which they fed and made jump a bit out of the water.
After the show we had a chance to visit the rest of the zoo. They had vast variety of animals, tons of crocodiles, koalas and of course the kangaroos. We also saw some giant lizards and very fun otters.
We also saw some gigantic turtles, cassowary and the most venomous snake in the world, safely behind the glass, of course.
When walking around the dingo’s enclosure we saw them attack one of the smaller lizards (who were again walking all over zoo). After the zookeepers saw that, they went in and the dingoes were running around them like dogs – expect the one who had the lizard in his mouth. He was running away from the zookeepers. After the zookeeper finally got the lizard from the dingo they took him to the animal hospital they have in front of the zoo.
Talking about walking a dog… you can actually walk a cheetah here.
In the late afternoon we had another encounter booked, this time with a native animal we did not see in nature yet – the wombat. The encounter was fun, but nothing compared to lemurs. Supposedly wombats get scared easily so we could only pet them from behind where they have some super protective ass area or something. Veronika did massaged one really nicely however, it went pancake flat on the plate of food.
Just as the last zoo this one also had two enormous enclosures full of kangaroos you could pet and feed. It was just as fun as previous day and this time I also did some posing with them. We finally saw one with baby (joey) in the pouch.
We also saw some white kangaroos.
With this we concluded our visit to the zoo, it was fun day’s trip and we did see enormous amount of animals. It’s well worth visiting.
Since we had a car, we decided not to take the highway back to Brisbane but take a longer rout that goes more inland. Sadly it was soon dark but it was an interesting experience. Couple of minutes of driving toward the mainland the road went from asphalt to gravel and soon we felt like we were in the middle of nowhere. We stopped at the top of a small hill where there was no (city/house) light for as far as the eye could see and in between there were some pointy mountains growing from nowhere.
We arrived to Brisbane couple of minutes before midnight and prepared for next day when we were living for Gold Coast.
Monday morning we took an hour bus through the Brisbane’s suburbs to the Lone Pines Koala Sanctuary. Despite it’s name it is a normal zoo, with multiple species of Australian animals.
The zoo is of moderate size, maybe a bit smaller than Ljubljana’s. The main difference compared to the standard zoos elsewhere is that you can actually take a photo with a koala or go and feed a kangaroo. Yea, that’s right, kangaroos just roam large enclosure where you can enter or leave at your leisure. Moreover you can buy some kangaroo food for couple of $ and you can actually feed them.
We saw variety of sizes of kangaroos ranging from a small ones to the ones you could look straight into their eyes when they were standing in front of you. Despite being very muscular and large, we felt quite safe around them. They were mostly chilling, I guess being fed by the tourists whole days long gets them super lazy.
We were pretty excited about petting them, one thing that surprised me the most was how soft their fur was. It looks rough and dirty where in reality it was silky soft (even with the big ones) almost like a puppy.
Besides kangaroos we also watched a bird show where they flew some owls and eagles around and told us about them. It was interesting to see them fly just few centimetres in front of us.
And to see an owl gulp up whole mouse in a couple of seconds.
After the birds we went to see a sheep show, where they used 3 dogs to bring a group of ship from one side of the park to the other. It was fun watching the dogs run around the sheep while bringing them home alone. They also looked like they had a lot of fun, guess it beats fetching a stick.
After the shows we took the opportunity to hold a koala and take a photo with it. Again just like with kangaroos it’s fur was very soft, and it was surprisingly heavy.
Besides holding it we also had an opportunity to watch in several enclosures around the zoo. However they are not very active animals and sleep more than 20 hours per day. Luckily we were just in time for the zookeepers to change their food (eucalyptus) which made them a bit more active as they climbed around to get to the food.
All over the zoo we saw hundreds of large lizards. For some reason they weren’t enclosed but were freely running around the paths trying to find some sun rays.
Again we saw some dingoes, they were just remodelling their enclosure so they were in a smaller one but still seemed pretty happy. I think they were quite tamed and used to people. I think I saw some zookeepers walking one just like a dog.
So far most of the animals we saw we also saw in nature, or at least their close relatives. They did however have a couple of animals that are a bit more exotic that we didn’t see before.
And we also saw the strangest of all the animals – the platypus.
All in all we had a great day. We spent most of the time among kangaroos which were most fun to interact with and saw a couple of quite exotic animals for an European. However just next day we had a plan to visit something we knew since day one of our planning we will visit (hint: another zoo).
We came back from Fraser island on Saturday evening. The bus for the last stage of the trip was leaving on Sunday morning, so we had some time to explore the city of Rainbow Beach. As with most of the cities we visited up here in the north it was a small tourist city, full of students on a holiday visa. The interesting thing in the city is it has a large desert dune at the sea side toward south-east, from where it is nice to view the sunset. Sadly when we got there it was cloudy so no sunset and super cold (as usual for winter nights in Australia).
The next day early morning we took a bus to Brisbane. The last stage of our trip was only about 300 km so at noon we were already in Brisbane.
While it was an interesting experience going backpacking and sleeping in hostels at this point we were craving for some privacy. We met tons of new people and it was fun to hang out with them for some time, but at some times the age difference (they were mostly in their late teens or early twenties) did bring some tension or at least annoyance at our side (especially if they were British >.<). It was still fun though, for 10 days! That is why we booked an apartment in Brisbane. We would have booked a hotel but for some reason apartments are more than 2 times cheaper than hotels with additional bonus of having a kitchen which also saves money since you don’t have to eat outside. And to top it of they also have room service so each day they clean your room/apartment just like in a hotel.
When we arrived to Brisbane at around noon we were pleasantly surprised that our hotel was just couple hundred meters away from main bus/train station in the city center and that it was the tallest building in the city. It had around 80 floors in total, sadly we only got an apartment in 26th floor.
The apartments as all we’ve been in Australia was amazing. It had a large kitchen, living room, toilet and bathroom with bathtub and gorgeous bedroom with a view over the river and the city. This was really the best view I ever had anywhere. When you went to sleep you could look through the large windows directly onto the lights of the city below. The whole apartment was about 70 square meters and also had a fitness, sauna and swimming pool in the bottom floor of the skyscraper. It was almost shocking to sleep in a nice and soft bed after sleeping on the floor in Fraser island while some giant, cute rat like animals crawled over and through our tents in search of food (I forgot to mention that in previous post).
We stayed in Brisbane for total of four days /3 nights. It is an enormous city, we did some sightseeing around the city center and drove the ferry up and down the river. However we did want to relax a bit more after the intense 10 days of from Cairns to Brisbane.
During the day we explored the city center on foot and made some preparations for Monday and Tuesday where we had some animal petting on our schedule, while in the evening we went to the pool. All in all it was nice to visit but not much to do in the city alone. However there are thousands of fun activities to be done in close proximity, but more on this in my next post.
Next day early morning we headed toward our car that we shared with 2 Canadians and 3 British. In our car only 3 of us were driving. The first stage of driving went to the British guy. We soon departed as second in a 4 car convoy on a short drive toward the Fraser Island. There is no infrastructure on the island and the island is some kind of National Park, only people with special permissions can get on the island. To get there we drove our cars onto a ferry and soon after we were on the island.
The briefing previous night and all the signs made us believe we were actually going to have to fight for our lives from the thousands of wild dingoes that live on the island in reality it wasn’t like that.
The whole island is made (covered) in sand (I have no idea how any vegetation can grow on it, but it has vast and dense tropical forests), there are no roads or infrastructure except a couple of small camping areas inside a protective fence. After driving for a couple of hours alongside the beach we stopped at one such place, where we had lunch. It was interesting to see it surrounded in electric fence, also on the ground, to prevent dingoes from getting inside.
After the lunch I took the wheel and drove us to our next destination, to a lake somewhere in the middle of the island. This time we didn’t drive on the beach anymore but turned inside the island. It was a very interesting experience driving on the sand. First I had to get used to of being on the wrong side of the car and to shift gears with my left hand. Contrary to my expectations driving on sand differed quite a lot from driving on the snow. The car didn’t drift so much and you could feel car struggling in the deeper sand. We (and by we I mean others 🙂 ) did manage to get stuck in the sand dunes on several different occasions but in the end they managed to get out every time.
After about 2 hours of driving through the jungle (sadly I have no pictures of it since I was driving) we arrived to the lake. The lake sits in the middle of island and I forgot why but it has one of the clearest waters I ever saw. It is quite deep (30m) so toward the middle the water gets darker. We stopped for about two hours before heading back toward the beach.
After arriving to the beach we drove for another three hours toward our camping site somewhere alongside the beach. Driving on the beach was interesting, waving up and down a bit while avoiding waves and creeks that flow from the center of the island. Toward the end of the drive we saw a particular interesting animal, one which we later learned were really lucky to see, despite all the advertisement beforehand. I’m talking about the dingoes.
I think they were looking for some food. From time to time there were people fishing on the beach I think they might have left something there.
Toward the evening we arrived to our campsite. It was again inside a protective fence. We put our stuff into a tent and went to the common area to cook a dinner. There was not much space left in the cars for luggage so we packed extremely lightly, a towel and swimsuit. Despite being quite north it did get very very cold during the night and I was really sorry I didn’t pack another long pants or a sweatshirt. I think most of us had a similar problem, so in the end we just hang around the fire before going to sleep.
I don’t think I ever felt this cold, even in Sweden. I actually woke up two times during the night because of the cold. Luckily we survived the night and were able to drive to our next destination in the early morning. We continued our way up the island for couple more hours until we reached “Indian Head” peninsula. Oh I almost forgot, while driving there I managed to cut my hand somewhere in the car so I had blood all over my trunks, shirt and car as well. It was surprisingly hard to get it off the clothes and a good incentive not to go swim into the sea, which was infested with sharks.
Interesting to say from the top of the Head we were able to see several animals in the bay below. I think we saw a couple of turtles, shark, stingrays, gigantic (non stingy) rays and of course a couple of whales in the distance. I am still amazed by the wild life I was able to witness on our trip. After we continued even further up north where we first saw a small wallaby (smaller kangaroo) in the wilderness and then continued to champagne pools at the seaside.
Finally we turned around and started driving down the island. After couple of hours of driving and waiting for cars behind is to unstuck themselves we arrived to an interesting shipwreck on the beach, near our campsite. The guide wasn’t quite sure about the story behind the ship so he asked us (in the car) to give him some keywords and he made up a story for the others who seemed to believe him. Luckily we were driving with him this day, so we knew the story was made up, hopefully the other days the information he gave us was true. The story was quite funny actually, the guy who stole the ship was wanted pirate for stealing candies from cruise-ships around Australia.
After the shipwreck, the day still wasn’t over and we continued half an hour drive down the beach toward a naturally forming lazy river – the slow running river that you normally find in spas. We had about an hour and half before a sunset to ride the rive, to play some beach volleyball and to sunbathe in the late evening rays.
After the sunset we returned back to our campsite where we cooked some food. After the dinner we went to a short walk to the beach where we watched stars. Because the island is more or less deserted there is no light pollution from big cities and similar. Furthermore since Australia is on the southern hemisphere the stars you can see from there are completely different than the ones we can see in Europe. The view was amazing.
After another night of freezing we had one more interest point to visit. A lake in the middle of giant desert somewhere on the island. After a short drive on the beached we hiked for about 2 hours through the jungle when at one point view completely cleared and giant sand dunes were in front of us. After another 15 minutes of slower hike through the dessert we were presented by a small green lake, that looked like it had 50 crocodiles in it.
We had some time to explore the dunes before heading back to the cars.
At the cars we had another lunch break before heading back to the mainland. I had the honour of driving again, about 3 hours over the beach on the island and about half an hour on the paved road on the mainland. It was the first time I drove on the left side of the road.