Wednesday July 23rd 23C

Sydney panoramaA little over 8 in the morning we touched down in Sydney airport. Clearing customs didn't take long even though we had to fill in a declaration about SARS. We picked up our car and drove to the hotel in central Sydney were we dropped off our luggage again. Even though we were still tired (air travel and sleep don't go together to well) we went out to explore. We walked via Pitt Street, a traffic free zone, to the office of the Australian Communications Authority where I had to apply for an Aussie license. It took less than 10 minutes to walk out with the callsign VK2IXY.

Sydney Opera House

We continued to 'The Rocks'. From there we could see the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour bridge. Around 17:00 the sun was going down already so we decided to call it a day... time to finally get some sleep.

Harbourbridge

Thursday July 24th 17C

It was a lot cooler today, after breakfast we headed to the Sydney Opera House. Next to the SOH is the ferry terminal were we took the ferry to the Sydney Maritime museum in Darling Harbour. Inside there are exhibitions on the first explorers that tried to map Australia and all kinds of maritime activities from fishing/whaling to cargo shipping. Outside there's one of Australia's warships 'Vampire' and the submarine 'Onslow', both can be visited inside and out. A short walk from the Maritime museum is the 'Powerhouse', a museum about inventions over time. The displays about eco-energy were very interesting. At this museum there's a station for the monorail that makes a loop around the center of town. We boarded the train and made almost a complete loop while looking down over the streets below until we arrived at the Sydney Aquarium. Besides the fish that are found in New South Wales, there are tanks with colorful fish of the Great Barrier Reef and a very large tank with walk through tunnel that was full of sharks. We walked back to the hotel as the day ended.

Friday July 25th 15C

Blue mountainsWe had an early start and took the car for a drive to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains. Getting out of Sydney was not easy, traffic was very heavy so it took a while before we were 'in the open'. Even though it was sunny, the strong wind made it feel very cold. In Katoomba, the first thing we visited was 'Echo Point', from here we made a few short walks to the 'Three Sisters'. Than we drove to 'Scenic World', we took the Railway (the steepest in the world) down and the Scenicender (a large cable car) back up. Below there's a boardwalk loop through the rainforest where we saw the first big parrots. On the way back we stopped in Leura at the Toy and Train museum, a private owned home/museum with garden. There were a lot of new and old toys on display. It was already getting dark when we headed back to Sydney. Dinner in the Hard Rock Cafe, not far from our hotel, ended a well filled day.

Saturday July 26th 17C

Bondi Beach surfersSaturday, an excellent day for the beach, so we headed to one of the most famous in the world, Bondi Beach. Tens of people were surfing even though the water was only 16C. We stayed on land, just to be sure... Early afternoon we were back in the city center for a visit to the Skytower. From 320 meter high we had a fabulous view over the city and beyond. We had a clear view to the beaches, airport and even to the Blue Mountains, 80 Km away. Before leaving the tower we did the 'Skytour' a simulator that shows the highlights of Australia.
We had one more item on our 'to do list' and that was the Harbour Bridge Lookout. We climbed 200 steps to the observation platform to have a view over the Sydney Opera House. It was getting close to 5 o'clock and it gets dark very quickly after that so, time to call it a day again.

Sunday July 27th 19C

A pod of dolphinsWe left Sydney behind and began heading north. The distance to Port Stephens is about 200 Km and it takes a little over 3 hours. The day before we made reservations for a whale watching tour. While we were driving we got a phone call that this tour was cancelled because of rough weather, hard to believe since we still had sunshine and little wind. At the marina we spoke to a few people who said that on the morning whale trip most people got sick so all companies cancelled the afternoon trips that went out to sea. The dolphin watch tours went on as scheduled so we took that one instead. The boat stayed in the bay where an estimated 160-180 dolphins live. We were lucky to see a few pods, a few dolphins swam very close to the boat. As we got back to the hotel I tried to get on the internet again. What didn't work in Sydney did work now and I was able to get my mail (after a week, there were a lot of messages waiting).

Monday July 28th 19C
Port MacquarieWe got up at 7 and after breakfast got on our way for a long drive, destination Coffs Harbour. We drove north along the Pacific highway. We stopped in Port Macquarie and took one of the paths to the ocean. The blue ocean and white sand in combination with (for us) exotic plants and birds was impressive. We continued to Wauchope where we visited Timbertown, a working 1900's village. There's a little steam train that makes a 15 minute tour of the grounds and afterwards a visit to the different craftsman is worth the effort. Timbertown closes at 15:30 so by that time we continued the drive and got to our hotel in Coffs Harbour at sunset.

Tuesday July 29th 20C

The Big Banana
7 O'clock and the alarm clock went off. We prepared most of our stuff so we could have an early start in order to be on time at our next stop 420 Km away. Just outside Coffs Harbour north on the Pacific Highway there's 'the Big Banana', a banana plantation that went partly theme park.

Cape Byron lighthouse

We continued to Grafton, a town with a large district of historic buildings from the 1800's that are in perfect condition. Next stop was Cape Byron, the easternmost point of Australia. There's a nice 1901 build lighthouse and good viewing of migrating whales. Again we were lucky, a whale was in sight for a while and we even saw him/her make a jump.

The most easterly point of the Australian mainland

We continued into Queensland and headed inland to Lamington National Park where, after a 32 Km drive on a narrow winding road we got to O'Reilly's, our accommodation for the next two nights. The hotel organizes different sorts of trips and we were able to take a night trip to see glowworms. It took a 10 minute drive with a 4WD bus to an open space from where we walked through the rainforest with flashlights. A little further we switched off all the lights and after our eyes got used to the dark, we saw hundreds of little glowing dots, a wonderful display.

O'Reilly's
Pademellon during the nightwalk

Wednesday July 30th 15C

handfeeding the parrotsYet another day of early rising. The resident birds were flying around and even came close to our room's terrace. We put some peanuts out and soon we had several parrots in front of our window. After a while they even came to sit on our hands to eat. After breakfast we went on a 7 Km walking trip through the rainforest. Emma, our guide, pointed out several species of trees and many of the resident birds. The afternoon was fun time, O'Reilly's has a 2 hour trip to the 'Fly Fox' a 180 meter sloping cable where, after a steep 100 meter climb, anyone can 'fly' down again. After this there was only one hour of daylight left so we went on the 'treetop walk' a 400 meter long walkway 15 meter up in the rainforest trees. On the way back the pademelons (small marsupials) were already coming out of hiding to start their nightly quest for food.

Thursday July 31st 19C
BirdWe got up even earlier today, we wanted to take the morning bird tour that started at 6:45. The temperature was only +1C and there were not a lot of people participating in the tour, but it was worth it. The birds are still hungry at that time so when offered food they come close to get fed. On the tour we saw several pademelons, one even had a 'joey' (young). After breakfast, it was time to hit the road again for Brisbane.

Koala

Just south of the city is Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, a place where koalas are cared for and where some of the other Australian animals can be seen. There's a place to have a close encounter with kangaroos and koalas. We continued to the hotel from where we made a walking tour around the city center.

Resting kangaroo

Friday August 1st 20C

BIG pineappleAfter breakfast we set off for a 300 Km drive North. After highway 3 changed to Bruce highway we took a short detour to the Glasshouse Mountains. We had a few beautiful views along this road before we got back on the main highway. In Nambour we stopped at 'The Big Pineapple', one of the many 'Big' things in Queensland. Around 2 o'clock we arrived in Hervey Bay where we stopped at the pier. A little later we checked in for the ferry to Fraser Island were we found our hotel for the next 2 nights .

Saturday August 2nd 21C
View from the LandroverIn the morning we picked up the Land Rover we booked earlier. Since Fraser Island has no 'real' roads the only way to get around is by 4WD vehicle. There are a few sandy roads going from the hotel to the inland lakes and the eastern beaches. Maximum speed on these roads is 35 Km/h but we never drove that fast... On the beach 80 Km/h is the speed limit but it' only allowed to drive there up to 2 hours before and from 2 hours after high tide. We crossed from the western side of the island to the east via the different lakes and got to the beach at 1 o'clock, exactly 2 hours after high tide.

Beachlanding !!!
Parked on the beach

We could then drive north to the shipwreck of the Maheno. We had to watch out for airplanes landing and taking off from the beach on a few stretches, it's something different to see a small plane parked next to a tour bus at one of the sights. After returning the car we headed for the beach near the hotel where we could watch the sun set over the water.

The Maheno shipwreck
sunset at the beach

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