Driving Up the East Coast of Australia: So Many Wonderful Memories – by All of Us!

Here are some of the highlights from our month long trip up the east coast of Australia:

 

Visiting the lighthouse and walking out on the rocks at Norah Head

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Watching movies on the big screen at several of the campgrounds

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Spending time on some amazing beaches, boogie boarding and swimming

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 Playing on the bouncy pillows at the campgrounds

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 Swimming in some of the parks amazing swimming pools (especially the one with the cabanas!)

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Going Dolphin Watching in Port Stephens on an incredibly windy, wavy day!

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Sand boarding in Worimi National Park

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Learning about Koalas at the Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie

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Spending an afternoon finding our way out of Bago Maze

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Learning about Bananas and flying down on the mountain coaster at the Big Banana

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Boogie Boarding at Kirra Beach & Maroochydore Beach

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Watching the Australia Outback Show in Helensvale

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Learning about glow worms in the glow worm cave at Tamborine Mountains

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 Trekking in the tree tops on the Tree Top Challenge Course in Tamborine Mountains

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 Catching crabs on a “catch a crab” tour in Tweed Heads

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Eating steak in the “steak capital” of Rockhampton

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Celebrating Caleb’s birthday with fish and chips at Airlie Beach

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Driving pedal carts around our campgrounds

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Enjoying the water park at our campground in Cairns (Coconut Holiday Resort)

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Learning all about the flora and fauna of the Great Barrier Reef at our Reef Teach lesson

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Learning how to snorkel in a free lesson at our Cairns campground

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Exploring crocodiles at Hartley’s Crocodile Farm

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Playing Caleb’s Escape Hunt game that he designed for us, for us our cabin in Cairns

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Snorkelling at the Great Barrier Reef

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Watching a Magic Show at the Reef Casino, Cairns

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Learning about the rainforest on an Army Duck Tour at Rainforestation, Karunda

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Trying to throw a boomerang and watching Daddy do the aboriginal dance at Rainforestation

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Surviving lots of rainy days and nights snuggled in our little camper van

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Good bye! We love you, Australia!

Port Douglas, Australia: Hartley’s Crocodile Farm – by Caleb

Today we planned to go Hartley’s crocodile farm and learn about many different animals, including crocs. When we first entered the farm, we went to the cassowary talk and feeding. A cassowary, for those who don’t know, is a large flightless bird, kinda’ like an ostrich. It is the third largest flightless bird in DSCF1239the world. The cassowary is a very cool but complex creature, thus making it tough to explain, but I shall try my best. If you imagine an ostrich, then you are off to a great start. A cassowary looks a lot like an ostrich, except the body is a very deep black and covered in feathers that resemble hair more than feathers. Another great way of explaining it, is it looks like a black pillow exploded and glued together by someone with very poor eyesight! Only, the pillow was filled with human hair rather than feathers. The neck is a nice, solid blue with huge wrinkles on it similar to an elephant leg, or a chunky grandmother. The head is the most complex of the body parts. The eyes are very distinctive. They look like big marbles with DSCF1800over-cooked onion rings incased in them. They have a long black beak with lots of teeth. They only grow teeth when they are older. They also have a big black hump on the top of their heads. It is kind of weird because no one knows exactly what they us the hump for. Some say communication; others, who aren’t as experienced say that they are just there. It almost sounds as if it’s hollow. You just kinda’ hit it and “tonk” it makes that noise. Any who, I hope you now have a good idea of what a cassowary is. If not, read this again and again until you do!

 

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When we arrived at the feeding, all we did was sit there and take photos. Pretty exciting! Finally our guide, who was going to tell us about the cassowary and feed it, arrived. The cassowary is the most dangerous bird in the world and can reach up to 40 kph. That is another reason people say they have that hump on their heads: it acts as a helmet! Makes sense; if we ran that fast and then ran into a tree we wouldn’t even know it ‘til a month later when the doctors told us! Despite being the deadliest bird alive today, it is a fruit eater like my brother. It also is becoming extinct due to humans chopping away at the rain forest. The way we can help save the cassowary is to raise money, or reduce the amount of garbage we produce, because our trash is poisoning their environment.

After feeding the cassowary we made our way down to the crocodile farm. Our guide at the farm, whose name was Matt, told us the many rules we needed to follow before seeing the crocodiles. His number one rule and my favourite was, “Just be wary of the lagoon we’re about to cross. There are no big crocs in the lagoon, in theory, but there is a black swan who isn’t ultimately friendly.” We crossed the lagoon and saw neither a croc nor a black swan.

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After we crossed the lagoon, we stopped in front of a massive cage, swaIMG_0682rming with crocs. Matt said, “Do NOT put your hand over the cage walls because crocs can jump quite high and if you do put your hand over top, you’re going to have a very bad day!” The cage was filled with green water that looked like it hadn’t been cleaned for months. There was also a small artificial land area. Alongside the massive crocodile swarm, he showed us the nests, and their breeding program. We were luck enough to be able to touch a baby croc, which in my opinion, felt a lot like a small living piece of mosaic art.

 

After the amazing experience of touching a croc, we went on the tropical boat tour. This was pretty much a tour that shows you through the rainforest by boat. Also, the boat keeps you from being eaten alive by the many 4 meter long crocs. Our guide on the boat tour, named Mario, showed us many different crocodiles and how they naturally jump to catch their food as seen below.

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What Mario did was tie a dead bird of some sort to the end of a pole and start swinging it about two meters above the water. A crocodile, named Clockwork, continually jumped up at the bait even though Mario kept pulling the bait away. After a few minutes of fun and hearing the jaw slap, we made our way back to the dock, still in one piece.

After that, we had lunch, which was delicious, then made our way to the salt water crocodile pen where the crocodile feeding was going to happen. Matt, who was our previous guide, also did the feeding, with his partner Mario, our boating guide. The whole show demonstrated how the crocodiles can jump up out of the water to a great height. There were many crocs they were feeding, all of them salt water crocs. The biggest crocodile they fed was a croc they named Spartacus. Spartacus was four meters long and over a hundred kilos! His jaw slap was incredibly powerful! It was literally the new Big Bang!

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Of course, the walking, humidity and heat was pretty much a recipe for exhaustion. Dad and I returned to the van for a rest ‘til it was time to see the snake show. The snake show happened at two o’clock and was pretty interesting. The keeper who showed us the different snakes was humorous and very good at giving out information. He showed us pythons, the most deadly snake in the world, aka the King Brown, and many others.

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But the real reason we came, was to see the show after this, the Crocodile Attack show. The Crocodile Attack Show here is apparently the best croc attack show in Australia. The guy doing the attack show was named Lee. It is really hard to explain what happened in the show but the photos below should give you an idea!

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Overall, Hartley’s Crocodile Farm was a great experience and something that you should see if you are around the Cairns or Port Douglas area in Australia.

Tweed Heads, Australia: Fishing on the Catch a Crab Tour – by Connor

On the boat of catch a crab, we went fishing and I was very excited. Our guide told us to just take a fishing rod from the back of the boat and take the bait, which was shrimp. Of course there were lots of Korean and Chinese tourists! They just pushed their way to the back of the boat leaving Caleb and I behind. DSCF1760After everyone got a rod and bait and started fishing, Caleb and I were still getting the rod and putting the bait on it. There was a little hook on the end of the rod and I had a lot of fun putting the stupid little thing on it! I gave up and asked my mom for some help. Then I felt very bad because my mom put it on easily and I couldn’t.

Finally I got my line into the water and waited, and waited, and waited. I was thinking that fishing was pretty boring! Finally I felt a tug and I pulled my line out of the water and… it was sea grass. After all that waiting I get sea grass. I thought fishing was pathetic! So, I put the sea grass back in the water and then I realized that the bait was gone. Now I really didn’t like fishing. So I got another piece of bait and stuck it on the hook. I didn’t have any problems because I was so mad.DSCF1763

I put my line back in the water and waited. Then I realized that everyone else’s line was sinking and mine was not. I pointed it out to my mom and she said it would sink with the current. I waited for it to sink, but it never did. So I just had to deal with it. I waited for some fish to come along and bite the shrimp. While I was waiting, my mom told me to not catch a fish when she was gone, because she had to run to the washroom. Of course, I finally did! (And it was a big on too.)

I asked Caleb DSCF1768for his help, so now both of us are tugging on the fishing line. “FISH! FISH!” I yelled. My mom and dad rushed around the corner of the boat; my dad was holding his huge Camera. The captain helped Caleb and I hold the fish in place for a picture. After a few pictures had been taken, the captain took the fish off the hook and let it go. At first, Caleb thought it was dead. Then it vanished under the water.

This was an amazing experience with Catch a Crab. So if you ever want to go to Australia, visit New South Wales and have an amazing time with Catch a Crab.

Tweed Heads, Australia: Catch a Crab – by Caleb

Today we went on a saltwater river cruise called catch a crab. Catch a crab is a company that organizes crab catching and other water activities for tourists like us. We happened to be on the largest crab catching boat in the world! We did three water activities including crab catching. We did yabby catching, crab catching (who would have guessed!), and bird feeding.

DSCF1738On our first activity, the yabby catching, our guide for the morning (who happened to be quite fun and humorous) showed us what the heck a yabby is before we went out to collect them. A yabby looks a lot like a miniature shrimp. For those of you who don’t know what a shrimp is, I’m sorry I can’t help you! Our guide showed us a few holes in the river bottom, where yabbies live. Then he laid a floating sieve on the river. After the sieve had settled on the water, he grabbed a metal pole and pierced the mud about two feet below the surface. Finally, he tied the sieve to the pole to keep it from floating away. He went back on the boat to retrieve something and returned a moment later with a device that looked somewhat like a machine gun. As it turns out, you use this more like a large air pump than a weapon. He explained that this pump we would be using was actually a yabby catcher. He gave us a demonstration on how to use it. He plunged the silver metal tube into the mud where a yabby hole was. As he did this, he pulled on the handle to suck in the dirt and hopefully a yabby as well. Overall, he did this in one smooth motion. Then, he pulled the pole out of the mud as if he were pulling up a pile of dirt with a shovel. Once he lifted the yabby catcher out of the water, he turned it sideways, and slowly pushed down on the handle of the so-called “pump” which slowly released the mud onto the sieve. Then he shook the sieve to see if he had caught any yabby. He told us we had to do this five times in the same hole and then move on to a new hole if you don’t catch anything. We had half an hour in the warm river water to try to catch a yabby.

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Connor, mom and I went up and down the river unsuccessfully trying to catch a yabby. The most exciting thing we caught on that stop were a couple of tiny, tiny crabs and a lot of sea grass. As it turned out, no one else caught a stupid yabby either! We decided that the two possible reasons why, were because yabby are really stubborn or, we were completely and utterly hopeless.

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Upon returning to the boat, our guide went around asking for volunteers to pull up the crab traps. Connor and I volunteered and we were the second people to pull up a crab trap. As we started to pull up the trap it became quite easy, which for us happened to be quite a shock. However, things did not remain easy, for a moment later a massive tug seemed to pull on the rope we were holding. Connor and I struggled to have the cage reach the surface but we eventually succeeded in pulling up the cage. For a second, Connor and I did not see anything in the cage but then we noticed an enormous crab rolling around in it. A few Chinese ladies shrieked behind us. The guide opened the cage and grabbed the crab. Then he brought it to who knows where. For all I know, it could have been lunch. Many other people did what we did later, while we sat inside and talked to the guide.

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Ten minutes later the guide brought out a bucket of fish and placed it on the deck. People came from upstairs and down onto the front deck without the guide even having to call them. The smell gave it away! He grabbed a chunk of fish and tossed it up in the air. Then from the middle of nowhere, a pelican swooped down and grabbed the fish from mid air just like that. Next thing we know a whole flock of pelicans had gathered in the water in front of the boat. A swarm of gulls also appeared above our heads. Also, among these two kinds of birds, we spotted a hawk that wanted to join the party. We threw fish in every which direction with out one piece ever touching the water.

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When the excitement finally died down, we returned inside and the guide showed us the power of a crab. He explained that a crab is actually very strong when aggressive. To prove this he showed us a carrot. “This is your finger,” he explained. He hit the crab a couple of times with the carrot and then put it in front of the crab.

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The crab grabbed it with its pincers and snapped it in half with ease. He explained the difference between the male and the female and then handed us a fishing rod and we went out and fished. Connor caught a nice big fish and I helped him reel it in. Then the captain told us what kind of fish it was and released it. Apparently if you keep a fish that is not big enough, there is a five thousand dollar fine.

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Once the cruise was over we hit shore and many people got out of the boat. But low and behold we didn’t have to! We got to have lunch on the boat so once people left we were served a whole cooked crab, a whole cooked chicken, and four cooked pieces of ham that happened to be gigantic! Alongside that we got an “all u can eat buffet” that had bread, salad, coleslaw, rice and soup. We ate and greatly enjoyed our delicious meal, and then headed upstairs to get a better view of the river. The captain took us on a quiet, peaceful river cruise for twenty minutes before docking and letting us off the boat. This was an amazing experience and a ‘must do’ if you happen to be in New South Wales on the east coast of the amazing country of Australia.

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Tamborine Mountains, Australia: Tree Top Challenge – by Connor

While driving in our camper van, my mom said that we were going to a place called Tree Top Challenge in the Tamborine Mountains. I thought it sounded fun, until my mom explained what it was. She said that it was a ropes course in the trees, and it had many other obstacles. I have only done one other course in my life, so this was going to be the second. I was very nervous but excited too. I have never zip lined before and this course had zip lines in it.

We drove to Tree Top Challenge and booked a spot for after lunch. We finished eating and walked to the challenge course. We put on our harnesses and gloves, and we were shown how to use the safety gear. I was already pretty nervous!

After that, we walked onto a bridge and walked all the way to the start of the course. The first challenge was to walk along a cable (like a tight rope) with another cable over our heads to hold on to. The cable that I crossed was about 10 feet above the ground and the next challenges got harder and higher – up to 30 feet above the ground. I was actually quite scared at first because I am afraid of heights! Once I got the hang of it though, it was fun!

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I seemed to be good at the challenges, probably because I really persevered and I was enjoying it. That was until we had to pull ourselves backwards. You had to sit in your harness, putting your head in the direction you were going and pull yourself across. I found this difficult because you had to pull your own body weight across the cable. It can hurt your back if you don’t hold your legs up high.

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Then there were the zip lines; you have to sit down in your harness, feet first and fly! The first one I did was very scary! You really fly across but I didn’t quite make it to the other side, so I had to pull myself the rest of the way. Once you get the hang of it though, the zip line are much more relaxing than the other challenges!

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One of the harder challenges for me were the free-hanging rope ladders. First you had to pull down a 5 kg weight that was attached to the safety line and then attach your harness to it. Since I’m quite small this took my full body weight to pull it! Your carabineer gets attached to a ring and you climb up or down to the next platform. The rope ladder is not attached at the bottom so it swings around every time you take a step. This made it very difficult for me but I made it through slowly but surely.

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After this experience, I would like to try other rope and treetop course to compare them. I felt this helped my fear of heights and it turned out to be a very fun day!

Coffs Harbor, Australia: Visiting the Big Banana – by Caleb

Half way through our 3-hour road trip to Queensland, we came across a plantation called the Big Banana (they’re a banana harvesting attraction if you couldn’t have guessed). Alongside the plantation, there was a mountain toboggan (mountain coaster), a 36 hole mini golf course, a waterpark (the largest waterpark between Sydney and Queensland), a theater with a self guided tour, a café, a candy making shop, ice skating (indoors of course or else it might not be ice skating any more), and laser tag. We got a package that included 2 toboggan rides, and 1 theater pass.

We decided to begin with the theatre experience. You traveled through 3 different theatres as part of this self guided tour. We began in theatre one which had a dome like screen that wrapped around you. Behind the translucent screen were large wax figures, such as an elephant and farmers. While the movie played the lights focused on these figures at the appropriate times, to make the move 3D.

We learned about the history of banana farming and how it came to Australia. After about 15 minutes in the first theatre, we moved into the second, in which there was a glass case with a diorama of a small town. When the movie began 2 digital people appeared in the town and began chatting to us about bananas and their importance to mankind.

From here we moved into the banana plantation that was rife with banana plants. We even got to eat some!

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We saw how the banana plants were harvested and how they grow up the hills.

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Finally, we entered the warehouse and had a chance to try lifting a banana bunch and saw how the bananas were packaged to take to the supermarket.

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Our tour dumped us out into the banana café where there were bananas on a stick (covered in chocolate), banana ice cream, banana crepes and lots of other goodies!

After a light lunch we headed over to try the mountain coaster. This was similar to one we had done on the Great Wall of China. This one was shorter but still a fun ride!

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The Big Banana is worth a stop, especially if you’d like to grab a banana treat! The water park looked like a lot of fun as well, but we had to continue on our way, since we still had a number of km to cover.

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Coolangatta, Australia: Riding the Waves – by Connor

The sand squeaked under our feet as we walked along the beach, back to our camper van to retrieve our boogie boards. We quickly changed into our swimsuits, grabbed our boards, and jumped into the ocean. The water felt even warmer than the air and the waves curled up to my chest. I walked out further DSCF1178from the shore, going deeper and deeper, until I reached a sandbar where the water only went up to my knees. Past the sandbar I went, out into the humungous waves. Two big waves were coming toward me, one right after the other. I lay across the boogie board on my stomach and my dad gave me a big shove. I kicked my legs. One wave crashed, going on ahead of me. The other wave crashed and pushed me into the first wave! Then a third wave came, pushing me further ahead, then a forth….until I was pushed all the way back to the shore!

 

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The whole day was great fun. I did get a little cold because after a while the sun started to go down and the air cooled off. Australia and its beaches feel like freedom! I love being in the water and I especially love the crashing of the waves.