Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Great Barrier Reef

Hi folks, Simon here. I thought it was about time I posted my Great Barrier Reef blog. While I've been waiting to find a web cafe/ hostel that allows you to upload photos, Pete's been nudging me now and again, getting upset about the chronological order of the Blog. Although I still havn't found somewhere to do the photos, I'll add them as soon as I can.
Although the reef is called the Great Barrier Reef, it is actually made up of around 2600 different reefs. The Great Barrier Reef is 2000km long, starting just south of the Tropic of Capricorn. The Great Barrier Reef stretches along the Queensland coastline from just north of Bundaberg right up to Far north Queensland and the Torres Strait. Due to the reefs amazing and spectacular natural beauty the Great Barrier Reef was declared as a World Heritage Area in 1981.

The reef is called the 'Barrier' Reef because it is an outer reef, situated along the Australian continental shelf with the channel between the coastline and the reef reaching a depth of about 60m. The other type of reef is a 'Fringe' reef, which is situated along the coastline of land and islands.

There are a few conditions that are required for healthy growth of coral. The water must be salty, clear and not lower in temperature than 17.5 degrees and lower in depth than 30 metres. An amazing sight is seeing the spawning of the coral, which happens in late spring/early summer and is often called an 'underwater snowstorm'.

The reef is home to a few dangerous creatures, although you may see reef sharks there are no noted attacks on visitors. The most dangerous things in the Barrier Reef is the coral itself (if you touch them you can cut yourself as well as damage the coral), Jellyfish and Scorpion Fish.

Peter D, my little brother, was due to fly up from Sydney on the Monday to join us in Cairns while we busied ourselves getting excited about the prospect of diving on the most famous Reef in the world. Pete R and myself had been diving quite recently in Thailand where Pete successfully completed his Advanced Open water course and I stepped onto the first rung of professional diving by completing my Padi Divemaster course. So we had both blown away the cobwebs and were ready for some exciting diving. My Bro hadn't dived for a matter of years and was quite eager to remember what gear he would need, and after a little research, turned up with some sleek new Fins, Mask, Snorkel and Knife. Very Keen. Sarah in her new found condition was unable to dive but after some quizzing of the local dive operations, we settled on a boat and crew that promised some excellent Snorkelling to boot.

The "Spirit of Freedom" is a 40 metre luxury vessel capable of catering for 20 guests. I say luxury because after diving in the Irish sea from a converted 18M fishing trawler that smells of fish with 15 Male divers all sharing the same bunkroom and head (toilet) , virtually anything would seem luxurious in comparison. To be honest though when we all arrived at the Dock it soon became apparent that this was a truly professional operation. When you are quite used to arriving at a tiny Scottish fishing port to find your boat at the end of a row of about five others. Climbing down a wet and cold, steel ladder in the dark whilst wearing a 20kg Scuba kit, 5kg weightbelt and carrying two bags, then making your way accross five boats that move apart with every wave, and negotiating with a drunken, scowling, crew member aboard each one.....being greeted at your vehicle and told to leave your bags for the crew to take below while you are welcomed aboard by the boat "Director of operations" and his crew seemed indulgent if not a little alien!

After a brief tour of the boat and the arrival of the the rest of the divers, we got underway at around 11am on day 1. After a short steam north east from Cairns harbour we anchored up for our first dive. After a lot of fumbling and trial and error, I got all my gear on whilst taking excited glances at the clear blue water. Stepping to the back of the boat, as the two petes finished kitting up, with a beaming grin, leapt from the boat. And as my bubbles cleared around me, it became quite obvious this was going to be some very special diving!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Brisbane or Bust! Arlie Beach and the Whitsundays!

The Whitsundays are a bunch of islands numbering around 70 odd... ranging from liddle tiddlers to big ole jobs... Here... Have a look yourself... -link to follow- :P

Airlie beach is the place to launch to the Whitsundays from - a place of young backpackers all doing the same things - which is pretty much the same as they were up in Cairns and Daintree and probably everywhere else in Oz - and that is, getting drunk and up to mischief - knowing they haven't got the mummy's and daddies around to tell them off... it all gets a bit tedious - I've not been very impressed with the ozzie Backpackers to be honest... but... hey... they're young carefree and enjoying themselves so who am I to judge. I'm just an old git these days who like his early nights and sleep, which sometimes is a rather incongruous to staying in backpacker places (i.e. the Townsville place being a prime example)

Asides from this, Airlie Beach is a really 'cool' place to be... and it's obvious there's a lot of posing going on and shops dedicated to selling bikinis and board shorts and the like.

We stayed in a backpackers place the first night, and took advantage of a last minute Yachting tour around the islands that they were offering with free accommodation there upon return... so hell, why not, it seemed like a good deal...

The yacht tour was on "Freight Train" an old Racing Yacht - we were on it for 3 nights, staying on board the yacht, anchored in serene bays overnight - sounds all very swish doesn't it? And it would have been were it not the fact we were, sharing with 15 other Backpackers and the 3 crew... not to say it wasn't worth it - it was a great experience and gave us a good insight into the potential of the area.
When we got back to shore we stayed overnight in our FREE accomodation and then decided to splash out on something nice... I think travel fatigue had set in and wanted some creature comforts, especially after the cramped conditions on the boat, so we located a place called "The Organic B&B" and booked ourselves in for 2 nights there. It was very, very nice... modern, swish and with a Gourmet breakfast to boot... Sarah took advantage of the on site massage - lucky girl.

During our stay here, we hired a Speed Boat for the day, taking advantage of simon's motor boat license...

We spent the day buzzing around the islands under our own steam (or should I say diesel?)... this was a lot better... great to make our own decisions rather than having to stick to a predetermined itinerary that you just know a million and one other people have done already... the best bits were finding our own deserted beaches to eat watermelon and just relaxing on our very own desert islands...

Then there was the dolphins and turtles we saw whilst getting a little lost (not really - our handheld GPS we've got really came into it's own this day). Overall though... Really really enchanting... those dolphins are something else... :)

One of the hilights for sure.

Next Stop: Fraser Island.

Brisbane or Bust! The Townsville/Ayr Fiasco.

Seeing that simon's not had a chance to update the blog with the dive pictures he was supposed to and wanted to write about I thought I'd update y'all with what we've been up to... perhaps he may place a dive post at some point but until then you'll have to wait for pictures I'm afraid...

So where were we? Oh yeah... North Queensland... Cairns, Cooktown et al...

Well, we've been in New Zealand for nearly a week now - but before I go on about here let's do some catch ups.

Rewind to 4 weeks ago... we were in Cairns, waiting for our trip on the Spirit of Freedom, our 4 day liveabord Scuba thing on the Barrier Reef... I won't wibble on too much about it... suffise to say it was another great dive experience... the only picture I have on me now is this one...

...Courtesy of Peter, Simon's Bro... that's him on the left - we're just about to head into the briny blue for some deep sea exploration mission on some crappy, boring reef, full of really rubbish and not interesting fish and sea life like sharks and stuff... no honestly it was really not worth writing about - Peter's saying "What!? We're supposed to go in there?" - Simon's doing his Paris Hilton wobbly head impression... and I'm doing my Blue Steel look... as yer do... :)

Anyway... enough of that trip as that's supposed to be Simon's domain and I'm not gonna go on about it anymore... besides - it was rubbish so there's no need to say more :P

So, what happened after Cairns? Well, we had to get to Brisbane at some point to get our flight over to New Zealand, but before we could do that we had a fair few number of miles to travel... as you can see from this link. How many miles is that? A fair few! So we hired a car and set off for our first destination - Townsville.

Townsvilles a small place town I suppose... I guess the name itself suggests that? We stayed in a crappy hostel overnight and decided pretty much to move on immediatly... the intention being to try and hit one final dive site - "The Yongala Wreck" - supposedly THE best dive site in Australia... we wanted to find out if it was true. There were trips from Townsville, but we'd been told to go to Ayr as there was someone there who could get out to the wreck in the morning and be back by the afternoon - which sounded great as we were on a tight schedule!

So, we headed down to Ayr, which can only be described as the armpit of the backside of nowhere... we called this organisation, the "Yongala dive company" from Townsville the previous day - and they said they wouldn't be heading out for a day or so and to check by their office the next day. We were very lucky to find it - but they said to call back again the following day at 3pm... there was loads of spaces so no worries - so we decided to hang around Ayr overnight and the following day we'd explore the area... (which mainly consists of a million square miles of Sugar Cane Plantations, the odd creek, road, crossroads, bridge, burnt out cars, farms, that kind of thing.)

We stayed Overnight in rooms over a pub - which was
again not exactly the best place we've stayed. Bar downstairs, Bottleshop next door, 'Bistro' attached to the back... Imagine your stereotype of an Aussie pub... you've got it... that's what it was like... but it was alright I suppose - besides we didn't venture downstairs.

The Following day we tried to find some things to do whilst waiting to make the call at 3pm... I wrote a Blog post in some hideous backwater 10 pin bowling alley place with an attached 'cyber cafe' - just as I'd finished the post the bloody PC crashed before I'd managed to post it... which really put me in a right old mood - especially having som
e bowling alley staffer explaining to me about computers... oh the irony! (especially now since that happened this blogger auto saves your posts - grrr!!!!?!?!)

Anyway... after that I was in a right old strop so we decided to get out of town and explore the sugar cane fields... But, you know, after about 300 miles of nonstop sugar cane it gets really quite boring and monotonous... we began to wonder whether there really was the need for all this sugar... climbing (in the car) to the top of a nearby 'mountain' lookout - the sheer scale of operations was nevertheless quite impressive - it was amazing to see the sugar cane field, stretching as far as the eye can see - the only breaks being the odd lake, river or forest - and of course the mountains in the far distance, presumably beyond those is Narnia - where I think they use all the sugar to make Turkish Delight... who knows? anyway... there's vast vast quantities - the whole area being dedicated to it...

Now, bearing in mind we could have been on the road heading south all day, we'd decided to hang around to see if the wind had died down allowing us to go wreck diving... we called the yongala dive company who were happy to say they were going out the following day... Great... Brilliant... where do we go and what time? But they'd already fully booked... bugger...! It wasn't even 3pm yet and they'd fully booked... we'd assumed they'd have put us down as part of the trip seeing that we'd called multiple times and even headed out to see them in the office in the naval of the armpit in the backside of nowhere... So, alas it wasn't to be... we sacked it off and decided to continue our road trip and get the hell out here... besides we need excuses to head back to Oz I guess.

Next stop - Airlie Beach.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Queensland trippin!

Hurrah for Picassa... it really is the mutts nuts when it comes to quick and easy image editing... and thanks to Matt (again) for the blog tips... :)

I think if you Click the above image you'll get a nice BIG version of it to have a shufties at.

It's basically a snapshot collage of our trip up North to Cooktown from Cairns, via Cape Tribulation, the Daintree River and back down south and beyond to the through the Tablelands, that's all the waterfalls and what have you.

Enjoy...! :)

Posted by Picasa

Monday, April 23, 2007

Some Misc Photos...

Here's some snaps taken whilst one the road. It's been quite tricky (read: annoying) uploading so many so please, enjoy and savour them cos I'm not gonna do this again in a hurry.
What was it mum called them? "Stuffed pillows hangin round in trees..."
or something like that...
Great Ocean Road, Victoria - Aus

Kirsty and Sarah at some pretty place.
Great Ocean Road, Victoria - Aus

wooaaa!... It's a GIANT MOUSE with six legs! Australia's weird!
Hanging Rock, Victoria - AUS

Hanging Rock, Victoria - Aus

Paragliding is easy...
Helmets on!
Bright, Victoria - Aus
...saddle up and clip in...
Bright, Victoria - Aus

... just run off the mountain...
Bright, Victoria - Aus

...and she's away...!
Bright, Victoria - Aus

Sarah's the speck on the left
Bright, Victoria - Australia

The 3 Explorers

Speaks for itself?
Botanical Gardens, Singapore

Apparently not in Scotland...?
Singapore Botanical Gardens

Struggling with the Coconut.

Have bike will travel.
Outside the Olembia (hostel) in St Kilda
St Kilda, Melbourne, Victoria - Aus

They Shoot...
Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne - Aus

They Scored!
The demons are on fire! (despite losing in the end to Geelong)
Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne - Aus

Kirsty and Sarah, and some apostles.
Great Ocean Road, Victoria - Aus

A few of the 12 Apostles.
Great ocean Road, Victoria - Aus

Colorful Beach Front Shacks, Brighton at Sunset.
Brighton Beach - Melbourne, Victoria - Aus

Happy & Sunny. Relaxing in Hammock with Shantaram.
Bright, Victoria - Aus

The look of joy after doing his first few k's on a bike after months out of the saddle
Bright, Victoria - Aus

Friday, April 13, 2007

Melbourne GP!


here's one for the history books...

I MTB'd around the whole of the melbourne grand prix course...

I don't know what my lap time was though as I thought I'd started my watch timer and hadn't... so...


I'm gonna do it again!


oh... I came first... :)

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Yes it's been a while! Thailand to Oz

Well... I thought that whilst we were in Thailand mainly diving and stuff that it would probably be best to not keep posting posts that went along the lines of...

"went diving today... saw some fish... improved bouyancy control, finning techniques... etc..."

Thought that that might get a little dull quite quickly... hence the radio silence.

But what HAVE we been doing???

Well.. in brief.
  • Diving in Ko Tao - Building up dive time whilst Simon been doing his Divemaster training...
  • Eating - thai food mainly
  • Sun bathing
  • Swimming
  • Sleeping
  • Travelling

Left simon in thailand a week or so ago and left Thailand (via a quick stop in Bangkok) and flew into Melbourne... in Australia.

So I'm now officially the furthest I've ever been away from home which is a bit weird cos it's not that much different. I'm sure those that have been to Oz will no doubt agree.

We're staying in a hostel in a part of Melbourne called St Kilda.... it's like a little Brighton in that it's next to the sea, full of cafe's and trendy 'metrosexuals'... and according to locals there's about 4 girls to 1 guy and most of those guys are gay... so if you're straight and female, then finding a guy can be a bit tricky...

Been here for a little under a week now and it's a nice kinda town but we were keen to get out, and then easter happened!

Did everyone have lots of nice easter eggs? The Ozzys take easter quite seriously, not necessarily from the religious viewpoint... more like the fact it's a good holiday break for them... the last ditch at summer I suppose. Yes, the temperatures are dropping here, and whilst not exactly arctic conditions (or UK summer) it's a helluva lot colder than Thailand... put it this way, my fleece and softshell jacket has come out from the bottom of the rucksack.

We spent easter w/e in a village called BRIGHT, about 4hours north east of Melbourne in an area called the Australian Alps - which are 'kinda' alpiney... more like the highlands in Scotland - still, made a nice change from the flatness of Melbourne... We were invited up there by Kirsty, sarah's freind from school who's living and working out here now. She and some of her friends had planned a trip to Bright, and well, they kindly offered us to join them. The only catch being we had to make our own way. This involved a 4/5 hour train/coach journey starting at some ungodly hour... but hell... we're now hardened to this kind stuff so we accepted and met them the following day after they had driven up the previous night.

Something I've noticed whilst we've been travelling! I was always under the impression that driving on the left was not that common across the globe? But it seems that every country we've visited so far does... it's a subtle thing, but one that makes me happy when, say, crossing roads... whenever I've been in the states or mainland europe, I always found crossing roads quite unnerving... but well... none of that anxiety at all - yet. Which is nice.

Anyway, that asides. Bright was a nice break... Managed to get some Mountain Biking in! Weyhey!!! Dunno how far I went but I was out for a good 2-3 hours riding around the hills around Bright. Mainly on fire roads, terrain being very similar to places like Coed-Y-Brenin/Glentress... a little bit of single track, and the odd really quite gnarly downhill bits which I avoided... not really being that comfortable with the bike I'd hired to attempt such... A Kona, Cinder Cone, a XC bike with decent bits on it, but a Hardtail, so I struggled at first - it climbed really well, (better than my Patriot anyway [naturally]) and I was surprised to find that I really enjoyed the climbs more than the descents, but I suppose the kind of bike dictates the kind of riding...

Oh, and the highlight of the ride was chasing a 'roo (or maybe a wallaby) along a fire road for a good 1/2 mile or so... stupid dumb things, could have cut off into the forest but stayed boinging away in front of me until I think it realised I was not getting any further away... (I was going downhill at the time) and off it dived into the woods and dissappeared.

You don't get that in wales! ;)

We got back from Bright last night and Simon arrived from Thailand this morning. We have a week here in Melbourne until we head north to Sydney to meet up with Peter (Simons' Brother).

I hope everyone is keeping well, and apologies for the lack of updates.


P.S. Andy (west') - how's that longboard doing? email me some pictures dude!