Craig's Travels
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Island Hopping

Greetings from Queensland! Before we left Sydney, Ronit and I had been warned numerous times about the people in Queensland. One bloke in particular told us that the people of inland Queensland are so backwards, they actually eat their babies. Well, they might not be able to cook breakfast to save their lives, but the people so far have been extraordinarily nice, and while there has been an increase of kangaroo & crocodile on the menus, we have yet to see roast baby.

We started our Queensland adventure the way most tourists do in this part of the world, by renting a four-wheel drive vehicle and heading to Fraser Island. The entire island is made of sand, hence it is a 4x4 Mecca. As a matter of fact, they won't even let you on the island without a four-wheel drive car. Because there were four of us, we were able to get our own car, instead of going in a group of 8 to 11 people, like most people do. This allowed us the freedom to move about the island as we pleased, along the bumpy and sandy roads.
Fraser has gorgeous beaches, with inviting water. That is, until you think about the jellyfish and sharks that inhabit those waters surrounding the island. Instead, the people on Fraser quench their swimming fetishes in the 70 some odd freshwater lakes, home to much tamer animals, such as catfish & frogs. We visited a lake that had Tea Tree leaves lining the bottom, and it made the shallow waters appear rusty. There was another lake that stood at the bottom of a giant sand dune slope, so you can run down the sand at top speed and jump straight into the water. We also visited Lake McKenzie, the most popular lake on the island because of its crystal clear blue waters.

The lakes were warm and gorgeous and comfortable, but the ocean looked so inviting, that we decided to brave it and go for a swim or two. This didn't happen near the treacherous waters of Fraser, but instead up in the Whitsunday Islands. After many a bumpy road, we joined back up with Matilda and drove 10 hours north (in two legs) to Airlie beach, the launching point for all boats heading towards the Whitsundays.
The Whitsunday Islands used to be mountains on the mainland, but thankfully, as the ocean levels rose, the water filled in the surrounding valleys, creating beautiful, lush, green islands that mark the start of the Great Barrier Reef, just off the coast of Australia. The water is a crystal-clear blue, whose beauty is only surpassed by the Mediterranean. Because the water in the tropics is above 17°C year round (average year round water temperature being an enticing 24°C), coral can grow freely at depths shallower than 30 meters creating the largest living organism in the world, the Great Barrier Reef. Colorful fish and coral thrive in this climate, as do about 5 types of jellyfish. The most mild of which will give you a slight skin irritation for a couple of days, where as the more powerful jellyfish can actually kill you if too much tentacles come in contact with your skin. So before we anxiously dove into the warm waters, everyone on our boat (about 30 passengers) put on stinger suits, hoods and gloves. The hoods made me feel like one of Darth Vader's henchmen, and I constantly wanted to tell the skipper, "The repairs on the Death Star are complete My Lord."

We went snorkeling and each did 2 SCUBA dives. This was a first for me, and tons of fun. It is awkward at first trying to create even buoyancy underwater, and I bumped into my fair share of coral. But we got to see some amazing and beautiful creatures, including Elvis, a huge very friendly fish about a meter long. The boat trip was stellar, and I would do it again in a second, despite the rocky return due to a storm in the area.

From here, we head inland towards the centre of the country. It will now get very hot and very dry. I'll keep my eyes peeled for fresh baby on the menu.

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