13 November 1997, Dingo cattle station, Australia:
What an unnecessary stop! We travelled from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. inland into nowhere land and Dingo cattle station, when our destination is Hervey Bay along the coast. That’s the drawback with Oz Experience – expensive stay over too – AUD 15 to stay, and the same for dinner, breakfast and farm tour, in addition we must pay for drinks. Staying in a six-person room which is connected to another 6-person room, and a 4-person room – shower and toilets are on the other side of the courtyard. Almost like our safari trip, except from not sleeping in tents. Not much to say about the food, I had a veggie meal; was told it was lasagne, but it turned out to be a not very tasty vegetable pie. Lots of overcooked vegetables in a dry dough, boiled vegetables and boiled potatoes on the side – not very exciting at all! Can tell by the number of insects that we are inland, much more of them here than by the coast. The farm tour was ok, the Aussie cowboy was a knowledgeable guide, and he also tried to teach us how to use the whip on the ground. Then we had tea and cake in the garden by the swimming pool. Then we were shoved into cattle cars for a 30-minute round trip of the farmland, where we were told they had to bring tourists here to break even, they couldn’t make enough money from their cattle. A major problem is the lack of rain, leading to dry land with not enough food for the cattle, which meant too little meat to sell. The used to have three water holes here, of which only one is working now – for how long they don’t know – the other two have already dried out. We were asked not to use too much water, so I skipped washing my hair – and it’s dirty! Both my hands and my brush got brown from the hair combing through it earlier, because of the dust from the farm tour. The guide also told us about the difference between the big burger chains, some were thinking about the environment buying from sustainable farms in Europe, Canada and Australia, while others wanted to make as much profit as possible, buying from less sustainable farms in South America. Don’t know if I want to eat burgers anymore – apparently only the meat from the oldest cows which can’t be sold as beef is turned into mince. We also had a lesson about castration and branding and the ox that had sex eight times a day, serving 45 cows… By the way – the day didn’t start in the best way, were waiting for the bus and were told we were on a stand-by list and that there were no seats available – no one had told us, so I was quite pissed off. We’d written down our names on the list more than 48 hours before departure on the bus to Airlie Beach, according to the rules, and the driver gave us the impression we would then automatically have a seat, but we didn’t, and we weren’t even told. So, the two of us, a Danish/Norwegian couple, and Tim and Johanne who didn’t get seats (they hadn’t written their names on the list, but tried to call Oz Experience for three days without getting through…). The poor driver was told off, felt bad afterwards since it wasn’t his fault, but spending another two nights in Airlie Beach waiting for the next bus would have messed up our itinerary. Luckily there were four seats available after all when he’d done his last pick up, and we got two of them. Felt sorry for the others who didn’t get seats. On the bus again tomorrow – from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. – not looking forward to such a long drive. There are many Danes travelling, but we’ve hardly met any Swedes or Norwegians. Quite a few Dutch people also, and Brits and Canadians – nice to meet so many different people.
The day started off in a bad way. We were waiting for the OZ Experience bus with quite a few other people. When the bus arrived, and the guide started reading up names he said that those not on the list or on stand-by would not be able to come along since the bus was fully booked. We thought we were safe since we had signed up for this leg when we arrived in Airlie Beach. We were a bit surprised when our names were NOT on the list, but on the standby list! Around 10 others had the same issue, and the guide was less than helpful, we could just fuck off and call the OZ Experience main office and complain if we wanted to. And to call the OZ Experience office is nigh impossible if we were to believe Tim who spent half of yesterday trying to contact them. After ½ hour of trying to call them, Tanja came running back and said that the bus had returned with 4 available seats, and we could get 2 of them! I felt a bit rotten leaving those who had no seat but what could I do? The drive to Ding was long, and why travel hundreds of miles inland into the bush instead of a more direct route is something I do not understand. The accommodation costs 15 dollars, dinner 7 dollars and breakfast 3 dollars. We took a “farm tour” were we learnt how to make a bullwhip crack, throwing a boomerang and you get to be driven around on the bed of a truck in the red dust until you are covered head to toe in the red stuff. When we came back to camp after our dusty trip, there was no water left, so I was happy for my shaved head, Tanja was less happy with her dusty hairdo. The camp itself is OK. Meals not worth the price. You can go bush camping in swags. Perhaps the coolest thing to do if you stayed a few days is that you could make your own didgeridoo with a local aboriginal. The ones I saw looked great and they cost around 140 dollars and only cost 50 dollars to ship home. I think this stop was a bit of wasted time and wasted money for us, we did not need to see a bush farm. We have been to the bush in Alice Springs. We have met more Danes and they are also travelling on to Frasier Island like us. Call me dusty!
14 November 1997, Koalas, Hervey Bay, Australia:
Finally arrived at Hervey Bay after a very long day on the bus, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. – feel worn out and very tired. Breakfast was as bad as the food yesterday, ok selection of bread, cornflakes, jam etc., however, when more than 100 people are to be fed within half an hour on a tiny veranda it’s no wonder everything turns out to be chaotic. The milk was warm, which makes cornflakes taste like shit. Not very hygienic either, everyone washing their cutlery and breakfast bowls themselves, in dirty, cold water. Happy to leave Dingo Cattle station behind! Problem with the payment, were promised yesterday that we could pay by credit card, but that wasn’t possible after all. Anyway, we explained we didn’t have enough cash, so then they accepted the card after all. The bus trip became quite strenuous too, especially since the driver Maverick had to get a new tyre, we were supposed to be picked up in Rockhampton at 12 p.m. – he arrived at 1.20 p.m. And when we should pick up the rest of the passengers by the zoo one had disappeared, so they had to go look for her. Found her, but by then we were already delayed by two hours. A Danish couple were annoyed due to the loud music in the bus, but the driver refused to lower the sound even though they asked nicely. He also started bad mouthing them to an American girl who refused to swap seats to give place to the couple so they could sit together, since she was afraid to get sunburnt through the bus window. She talked shit about the couple as well, lost all respect for both of them then. The music was on during the whole trip, only break was when Top Gun was on, then loud music by Metallica, Aerosmith and Nirvana. The Danes asked again if the driver could please turn the volume down a bit, but he said the majority should decide, without him actually having checked what the majority wanted… The Danish girl got so upset she started to cry, the American girl took the driver in defence, and the driver stopped the bus and took the Danish girl outside to discuss, but don’t think they saw eye to eye anyway. Very glad to arrive at Koalas, although it’s not as nice as the one in Airlie Beach. We’re in a room for five people now, costs us only AUD 10 per night for the first night, but will change for a double room tomorrow I think – only costs another AUD 5 extra. Two Swedes in the room – nice to speak with someone that’s easy to understand, and who understand us easily as well!
After countless people had run in and out of our dorm we got some sleep. Up at 07:00 to get an OK breakfast. We were supposed to leave at 09:00 but did not move until 09:45 – this was due to the guide who had messed up the money paid and thought that someone had not paid their stay. On the bus it was the same too loud music as the day before. People started complaining about this, but no action was taken by the guide who thought this should be a party bus. In Rockhampton we had to wait for 2 hours since the bus had to change a tyre. The music continued incessantly and there was an obnoxious American girl who ran the show in the bus, and our new Danish friends Patrick and Lykke got told off after they tried for the 4th time to ask nicely to turn down the music. The whole thing culminated in the bus driver stopping the bus and taking Lykke out of the bus and telling her to stop complaining! WTF? The driver was a total fucktard and made this into something it was not, idiot! He could have turned down the music, but he chose not to, and that American girl gloated, she should be the one thrown off the bus. I was happy when we finally arrived at Hervey Bay and could disembark the disco bus from hell. We checked into another Koalas, and it cost only 10 dollars for the first night. Great room and a great shower to get rid of the last of the red dust. We will possibly move into a double room tomorrow; it is only 30 dollars. I think that the bus drive from Airlie Beach via Dingo to Hervey Bay was a waste of time. Dingo is a rip-off with high prices and lacing in facilities. Also, not very impressed with OZ Experience so far!
15 November, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja
After a night in a 5-man dorm we switched to a twin room, it only cost 30 dollars! We travelled to the city centre to send emails from a “cyberlink” shop. It was inhabited by a horde of nerds playing Quake in a network while their parents were hijacked by salespersons who tried to sell them a PC. When we sat down to send mails to Norway, we attracted attention from around 20 people who stood around us asking us questions. We explained that we sent mails to Norway and one man asked, “how long does it take to reach the recipient?” and we said that this was instant. Applause and amazement followed upon this new tech marvel! They must have sold 10 PCs just from our “show and tell” to the shoppers. The shop manager was so happy that he gave us free use of the PC for as long as we needed. Happy days, and obvious that Australia is a bit behind on the tech front compared to home. Back at Koalas we decided to do a day trip to Frasier Island tomorrow, it will cost 65 dollars. The evening spent with beers and good company.
16 November 1997, Koalas, Hervey Bay, Australia:
Today we’ve been on Fraser Island – the biggest sand island in the world. And we’ve even seen it from air! Decided to go on a day trip that cost AUD 65, even though we didn’t get any discount from the ISIC card or since Ørjan is a travel agent. A bit of a stressful tour, but don’t think I would have wanted to go on a three-night jeep tour with seven others, with the possibility of getting on the same tour as the obnoxious American girl from the bus – spotted her on the ferry… Got to see the most important stuff anyway, although I would have liked to have a bit more time on some of the stops. Our first stop was at one of the many lakes on the island, made up of natural rainwater – it was very beautiful with white, fine, fine sand. Ørjan went for a swim, while I rinsed my ring with the sand – as recommended by the driver. Then we went for a short walk through the rain forest to one of the resorts where we had lunch, which was included. The resort was situated by a beach at one side of the island which was as long as the island – 120 kilometres with white sand – that’s what I call a beach! Apparently quite dangerous to swim in the sea, however, Lonely Planet stated that there are a lot of undercurrents, which we witnessed crossing the Great Sandy Strait – and there are sharks. We were told we might see whales, dolphins and dingoes – Fraser Island being the only place left where they are a pure breed – everywhere else in Australia they have mixed with dogs -unfortunately though we saw none of the above. Anyway – we decided to go for a ride on a small plane which cost AUD 30 – and was really nice!
Lykke and Patrick came too, a bit nervous since it was a very small plane with room for only five people plus the pilot, and since it was really windy, we could feel every wind gust inside the plane. Everything went well, though, got a tingle in my belly a couple of times, but really nice to see the island from the air. It’s covered in dense, green rain forest, the long beaches and beautiful lakes and sand dunes. We were let off a bit further down the beach at some rock formations made of sandstone with nice colours called the Pinnacles sacred to the Aboriginals. Then we went by bus to a shipwreck stranded on the beach. Then further on to the biggest creek on the island where we could swim. Cold and refreshing in the water, strong currents, so we could just lie on our backs and float down to the sea. Lovely place! Was a really bumpy ride on Fraser, it’s all sand which was really dry now due to lack of rain, so difficult to navigate – almost felt like driving on snow back home – no wonder they need 4-wheel drive. Even saw a 4-wheel drive Rolls Royce! Got back from Fraser at around 5.30 p.m.
Didn’t really do much yesterday, it was overcast and a bit cooler, thankfully, than further north. There’s a long beach, but it was very windy, so we just went for a walk, and had a look around the place. Not that much to see, really, we took the bus to a place called Pialba and an internet café called Cyberlink. There was an Expo, so lots of people. One of the managers there told us they were about 10 years behind in the IT-business in Australia, so they were trying to boost interest. We were supposed to pay AUD 10 per hour to use the computers, but since they considered it to be good advertising for them having backpackers from Norway sending emails back home, they let us use the computers for free for as long as we’d like. And – quite a few people gathered around us asking what we were doing. After that we went for food, unfortunately not a nice experience with lasagne that didn’t taste good at all, and we were persuaded to add garlic bread which doubled the price – stupid tourists!
The bus left at 07:55 and the first people we saw were Patrick and Lykke! We were driven to the ferry who would take us across to the largest sand island in the world. The ferry was full of 4WD cars with locals who were already quite drunk, strange to go to such a natural marvel being totally out of it. We got on to our 4WD jeep which took us across the sand, it was like driving on Norwegian snow and we got stuck a few times on the way. The sand is silica sand, all the small grains are totally circular and that makes for very smooth and fine sand. We swam in one on the crystal-clear lakes on the island, surrounded by huge sand dunes.
Amazing! We walked the rainforest and we had lunch on the 12-mile beach. Not really 12 miles, but who cares when it is this spectacular? We got an offer for a flight with a small plane over the island, and it only cost 12 dollars, of course we said yes! An incredible flight over some of the coolest and strangest landscape I have ever seen. We had some turbulence that made my stomach churn, the landing was an epic feat of flying from the pilot landing in between cars driving on the beach. We drove past a wreck of a ship that was stranded here in 1935 and we swam in a small creek. If we had 150 dollars, we could have taken a 3-day trip around the island but we got to see a whole bit in the time we had and it was truly epic.
17 November, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja
We slept in for the first time in a while, a classic breakfast on Nutella and white bread. We washed clothes; it was about time. After washing all clothes, we found that they were just a dirty as before. We asked reception about this, and they said that their washing machines only had cold water! After a short argument we got our 2 dollars refunded and went to a cleaner in the city centre with warm water and they only charged 1,60 dollars! Our Danish friend came by and said that they would be moving to Beaches backpackers, it only cost 9 dollars for a 6-man room with bathroom and TV. We walked over and had a look, and it was better than Koalas. We moved into Beaches with Patrick and Lykke. I called OZ Experience to check that our next leg was booked and OK to Byron Bay, my booking was OK, but Tanja was on no list! In other words, a good thing I called and checked. We spent the evening in Danish company at Beaches saying goodbye to Pernille and Rikke, they are going to Frasier Island tomorrow, and we doubt that we will cross paths with them anymore on our trip. They were great company. It was a Danish/Norwegian room at Beaches, and we ended the evening with Friends and Dumb and Dumber on TV.