Airlie Beach and Australia’s Whitsunday Islands – The gateway to the Great Barrier Reef

We will finally get the trip’s proper time line back on track with this post! We apologise to those of you who were confused by the post from the Outback, we lost a bunch of saved posts for some reason but now we’re back on track and continuing north up Australia’s east coast.

We left Yeppoon and continued up the coast to the small seaside town of Seaforth about 40 km’s north of Mackay. It’s a pretty little town of 600 that like most towns in this part of the country survive on a combination of the sugar cane and tourism industries. We found Seaforth to be very nice and it offered up beachfront camping right in town so we decided to stay the night. $23 will get you a site right on the beach and you’re close to the general store in town if you need extra supplies. There is also a stinger net protected swimming area just up the beach from the campground so you can actually get in the ocean during the summer months.

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We are now far enough north that this time of year you can’t really swim in the ocean outside of netted areas due to the warm summer waters bringing Box and Irukandji jellyfish close to shore. A sting from either of these species can result in hospitalization and in some cases even death. In fact the Box jelly is widely considered the most venomous animal on earth! It’s a cruel time of year in northern Queensland, it’s HOT and humid in the summer but you can’t really get in the ocean due to stingers, and as we progress north you have to really be careful in fresh water rivers and billabongs as we’re entering crocodile country! GOOD TIMES, but in all honesty with some common sense and using the designated swimming areas all along the coast there’s plenty of safe opportunities to go for a dip.

We spent the evening chatting to some of the other people around the campsite, this has been a great way to get tips on places to see and what campsites and caravan parks are the best. We have found that the majority of people we are meeting are retired or semi-retired couples with caravans who are all very well-travelled so its been a great resource for us and you meet some great people! The hospitality you receive in small town Australia is incredible, the people are warm and in most cases genuinely want to chat and share some local knowledge. Canadians have the stereotype of being polite to a fault and travelling all over Canada I have found in a lot of ways there is some truth to it. Now as a Canadian travelling in Australia you can see many of the same characteristics in the people here, I have had many conversations with both friends and Australian tourists about the similarities in our cultures and it’s great to experience first hand what I believe makes both nations great, a wild and beautifully diverse landscape and its people. The rest of our evening was spent relaxing with a few cold beers watch lorikeets, ducks and the ever amusing galahs playing some sort of game on the power lines.

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Rainbow Lorikeets

Rainbow Lorikeets


Kookaburra

Kookaburra

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Beautiful ducks

Beautiful ducks

The next morning, Bob, the campgrounds caretaker, decided instead of simply giving us a tip on a back road shortcut to Airlie Beach he jumped in is car and drove us to the right gravel road so we wouldn’t get lost! This tip saved us almost 2 hours of driving time and when gas is $1.67 a litre anything to save fuel is great.

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It was mid morning when we pulled into Airlie Beach and we were both beyond excited to start exploring the area. The Whitsunday Islands and the Great Barrier Reef have been bucket list destinations for me my whole life, so to actually be pulling into town with my best friend was an amazing feeling. I have been following @WhitsundaysQLD on twitter for the last year or so and have found it to be a great resource for travel information on the area, I would recommend giving them a follow if you’re planning a trip to the area. With icons like the Great Barrier Reef, Heart Reef and Whitehaven Beach at the top of millions of bucket lists, Airlie Beach is the hub of the Whitsundays region. Airlie is the largest town on the Whitsunday Coast, and is almost entirely focused on tourism. There is a laid back vibe in town and we both really felt at home here, I think that’s because it’s like a tropical version of our home in Banff. Offering accommodation options for every budget and a seemingly endless list of attractions and adventure opportunities this area should be on any adventurers must do list. After exploring town we decided to set up camp at Island Gateway Holiday Park, it’s the closest campground to town and offers everything from unpowered campsites to deluxe spa villas. The grounds are well looked after and the amenities are fantastic, there’s kitchen and laundry facilities (both have power outlets in the kitchen areas to charge phones etc), great showers, free Wifi, BBQ areas, a tour desk and even a pool. We paid $25 per night for an unpowered site.

TRAVEL TIP: If you camp here be sure to avoid setting your tent up directly under the mango trees! There are tons of fruit bats at night which means killer mangos dropping from the sky. Also in the winter summer months bring lots of bug spray there are LOTS of march flies!

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Fruit Bat feasting in the mango trees

Fruit Bat feasting in the mango trees

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After we had set up camp and booked a snorkelling tour for the following day we decided to head out and explore the surrounding area. About half an hour outside of Airlie and 20 minutes past Proserpine lays Cedar Creek Falls also known as simply Cedar Falls. A popular waterfall and swimming hole. When we arrived we were ecstatic, not a single person was there! After the quick walk to the falls we realised why that was. The rainy season hadn’t really started yet so it was more of a dry rock face than a waterfall. Not to be discouraged we went for a swim and had a great time having this beautiful area all to our selves. There is a trail that leads up and around the falls and since it was not running I was able to walk right across the top and explore the rock formations worn over time by the wet seasons waters. Even without the waterfall flowing it is a beautiful area, the swimming hole is very refreshing on a hot day and there is lots of wildlife from the hundreds of tadpoles and the little yabbies (small crayfish) who like to nibble on your feet to turtles, butterflies and lots of birds. After a while we were joined by a couple of locals who were showing their niece around the area, though we no longer had the place to ourselves we are now glad we showed up! Their niece was visiting from Perth and I guess doesn’t get out of the city much, while we were swimming she was up on shore and suddenly let out a blood curdling scream. She barely managed to get the word snake out of her mouth before Carly and I quickly grabbed the camera and raced toward her assuming there was some sort of large of highly venomous snake. It turned out to be a harmless Green Tree Snake, once we were sure it was actually a tree snake that was no threat to us we attempted to catch it but it made a tree before we could, none the less we felt blessed to get some decent shots of him and loved every second we got to spend with this beautiful creature.

Tree snake

Tree snake


he really was being cooperative!

he really was being cooperative!


Green Tree Snake close up

Green Tree Snake close up

If it wasn’t for the young strangers scream we would have never know it was there, funny how it works out. Carly and I have spent most of our free time in the bush on this trip actively looking in hollowed out logs and under rocks for snakes, lizards and spiders with little to no luck, but the girl with a deathly fear of snakes almost steps on one!

Moments later as the family was leaving they called out to us to come quickly. We had explained our love of wildlife and how we were both really into reptiles. They had spotted a lizard near the parking lot! I raced off with the camera and quickly chased after it, I backed off a little when I realised that it was a large Lace Monitor. The monitors sharp claws and poisonous saliva were something I didn’t want to tangle with! I was able to get fairly close once he was up a tree and had calmed down a little which again was an amazing experience. To be so close and to get the opportunity to share some time with animals like this are a huge part of why I have always wanted to visit Australia and a passion Carly and I share both at home and while traveling.

Lace Monitor or Spotted Goanna

Lace Monitor or Spotted Goanna

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love the markings

love the markings


What a beauty!

What a beauty!

What a day this had turned out to be! It goes to show that you never know what you’ll run into on trips like these. We saw a number of people visit Cedar Falls while we were there and immediately leave because the waterfall wasn’t flowing, we are sure glad we stuck around! We had made it back into town when I realised that in the excitement of chasing the goanna I had left my shirt, towel and cigarettes back at Cedar Falls so we had to drive a half hour back to get them, amazingly they were laying right where if had left them.

After dinner we fell asleep to the sounds of the frogmouth owls and the bats, however there were a bunch of bush stone-curlews at the campground and the sound they make freaks Carly out so she had a tough time falling asleep. Their call is more of an eerie walling that I find pretty cool! They call at night which has led to a number of phone calls to police from people mistaking their call for a woman screaming in the woods! Curlews come out to feed at night and are becoming quite rare in a lot of Australia so I’m glad we got to see so many and spend some time with these neat “screaming woman birds”.

The Bush Stone-Curlew

The Bush Stone-Curlew


Notice the huge eyes for nocturnal feeding

Notice the huge eyes for nocturnal feeding

The next morning we were up early with excitement as today we were off to explore the Whitsunday Islands and to snorkel at 2 different reefs on the Great Barrier Reef chain! I love days when we get to tick off bucket list items together. There are many different tour options to get you out on the reef and to explore the Whitsunday’s, again there is something for every budget from half day tours on small watercraft to chartering your own yacht and sailing to one of the luxury resorts on one of the islands. Located in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef in the warm waters of Australia’s Coral Sea the Whitsunday Islands truly are a tropical paradise. Carly and I are usually into laid back sailing on a small catamaran to get us out snorkelling spots but for todays adventure we decided that to see as such of the area as possible we would turn up the adrenaline a little. For this outing we would spend our day with the team at Ocean Rafting aboard one of their 500HP semi rigid inflatable jet boats! Our Eco Host Dylan picked us up at the entrance to the campground at 8:30pm and drove us a short distance to the docked boats where once you’ve signed in you can relax with coffee, tea and biscuits while the staff ready the boats for the days tour. This time of year stinger suits are recommended and can be rented for $7 at the jetty. The “sexy” lycra body suits may not look great but looking like a 7 foot bean-pole of a ballet dancer is better than getting stung by an Irukandji or a Box jelly! The crew likens the suits to seat belts, you may not always “need” them but they will save your life when you do.

Ocean Rafting - 500HP tour boat

Ocean Rafting – 500HP tour boat


Airlie Beach Jetty

Airlie Beach Jetty


Loading the Ocean Rafting Boats

Loading the Ocean Rafting Boats

Ocean Rafting runs small group tours daily with a maximum of 28 passengers per boat, between the small groups and the fact that Ocean Rafting has special permits to visit protected areas of the world heritage listed marine park you really get to experience this paradise away from the crowds. Even though we visited in the quieter off season of the summer this region is still hopping with tourists from around the world. We would highly recommend making reservations for tours and accommodations ahead of time a things fill up quickly even in the off season. Once on board we met our captain Matty and set off to pick up a few more passengers on one of the islands. Ocean Rafting offers two tours daily we chose the Northern Exposure tour that featured more snorkelling time on two different reefs, their other Southern Lights tour offers more beach time. The scenery is amazing as you cruise through the Whitsunday’s, past many islands and different sections of the reef and simply getting from one place to the next on the 500hp boats is a blast. These boats are FAST and they drive them like they stole them! The ride is an experience and Dylan our Eco-Host was a wealth of knowledge making it an educational trip as well. We arrived at our first snorkelling location at Maureens Cove off of Hook Island and after squeezing into our lycra fashion pieces we were in the water. Carly and I have both travelled to many places around the world and neither of us have seen a reef like this! The biodiversity is incredible, with more species of fish than we had ever seen in at one time. The real highlight on this first snorkel was seeing the biggest rainbow parrot fish either of us had ever seen! Even with the suits on Carly on I were both stung by small harmless jelly fish, Carly got one on the top of her foot and I got my forehead, nothing really painful or dangerous though. Our next stop was at Mantaray Bay, as we were pulling up to anchor we saw an absolutely massive sea turtle! It was incredible, unfortunately we didn’t get a picture of him as this was by far the largest turtle I had ever seen in the wild. Mantaray Bay offers up a totally different experience, deep water give you massive coral formations and some HUGE fish. From Giant Trevally to massive Hump Head Wrasse fish along with rays, tuna and huge groups of schooling fish species it made for the best day of snorkelling we’ve ever had. All the fish are so inquisitive, once you’re in the water with them if you just float most will come right up to check you out. Like most of my experiences in nature I find that if you can resist the urge to continually explore and just sit amazing things happen and you get to witness wildlife in its natural habitat acting as they would if you weren’t there. Even after a few hours of snorkelling we didn’t want to get out of the water, there is just so much to see and experience on the reef. We reluctantly climbed back on board and set off towards the world-famous Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island. The clouds rolled in and it started to rain but nothing could spoil this day of exploration. With Ocean Rafting you get exclusive access to Hill Inlet where we hiked up a trail to a lookout above Whitehaven Beach, unfortunately the million dollar view wasn’t as good as we were hoping due to the pouring rain and dark clouds but again even the cold rain couldn’t dampen our mood. Whitehaven is breathtakingly beautiful which makes it easy to believe that its one of the most famous beach photos in the world. Composed of pure white silica sand the aboriginal name for it means “whispering sands”. Hill Inlet at the Northern End of Whitehaven Beach is a picture postcard destination.

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The breathtaking Whitehaven Beach – Whitsunday Island, Queensland Australia


Carly on Whitehaven

Carly on Whitehaven


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Soldier Crabs


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Huge groups of soldier crabs

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After the hike we navigated our way through a couple thousand soldier crabs on the beach back to the boat for our buffet lunch and a little more time to explore the beach and go for a swim. We even found “sandmen” instead of snowmen for Christmas!

Sandmen!

Sandmen!

By the end of the day we were exhausted but didn’t want to leave the paradise that is Whitsunday Island but we did look forward to the adrenaline rush of the boat ride back to Airlie. All the staff at Ocean Rafting were fantastic and you can really sense the passion they all have for the environment and the area they get to share with their tour guests everyday. Both Dyls and Matty were amazing guides and passionate educators, we hope to get back to Airlie and see them again in the near future. The tour we chose cost $129 per person plus the $15 dollar optional buffet lunch, tours depart daily from the Airlie Beach Jetty at 10:00am and are worth every penny! Some tours are one-off experiences but I can guarantee we will do this again! Our only disappointment was that our GoPro didn’t record properly, which is to bad because there would have been some great video.

Airlie Beach from the water

Airlie Beach from the water


Not sure who lives here but wow!

Not sure who lives here but wow!

That night we met up with some of the crew from the tour at a pub in town called the Downunder Bar, having gone on a tour with Ocean Rafting you get dinner and a pint for $10 AND for every three tour guests that show up you get a free picture of beer! After a few hours of swapping fish stories we wandered through some of the shops in town, then with the rain settling in we headed back to camp to get some much needed sleep.

Thanks for reading our latest post and we look forward to your comments! We will be adding some underwater shots as soon as they’re all uploaded. We hope you will check back soon as the we continue further north into the wet tropics of Queensland. In our next post there’s giant mangos, the magical “bruffin”, shovel nose rays, sharks, all this and more from the Wandering Winters.

Ew

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Not at all on the topic of our road trip in Oz, but we do love our home in Banff and encourage you to check this contest out. Maybe you can join the Wandering Winters for some spring skiing in the Canadian Rockies!

Australia’s East Coast Road trip Continues – Agnes Water, 1770

They say that the weather in southern Queensland is “beautiful one day and perfect the next”. So far that adage has rung true, the weather has been unbelievable! As we move north the temperature climbs as does the humidity but having spent time in Mexico before our arrival in Australia it really has been a fairly easy adjustment as we have had time to acclimatize to the heat. We only had an easy drive to Agnes Water today which was nice, with no real schedule we can make our way north at a leisurely pace. This really gives us the freedom to pull off whenever we see something of interest. If you’re going to visit Australia TAKE YOUR TIME, there’s just so much to see and do in every different region.

We arrived in Agnes Water around noon and pulled into town to grab some supplies…. Well beer and ice ;).
Australia Travel Tip for today; Get your ice from the larger grocery stores when your in bigger towns as ice in little beach towns like Agnes was $4.50 a bag!

We cruised around Agnes Water and the neighbouring oddly named town of *1770. After getting the lay of the land and these pretty little surf towns we head just south of Agnes to the Workman’s Beach Campground, a beautiful little spot set back in the bush. With a number of sites (all unpowered), a grassy day use area, toilets, showers (outdoor), BBQ sites, lots of shade and at only $6 per person per night it makes for an amazing place to camp as long as you’re tenting or sleeping in your vehicle. If you’re travelling in a larger camper or with a trailer you will want to look elsewhere as the sandy road into the site and low hanging brush make it inaccessible. There is also direct access to Workman’s Beach from the camp site, a quick walk through the bush and down the embankment from the day use area and you’re on a beautiful protected little beach. There are a number of large rocks on either side of the beach so if you’re surfing during high tide make sure you know where hey are.

We set up camp made lunch and headed to the main beach in Agnes to check out the surf and relax. We had a beautiful lazy afternoon in the sun as the surf wasn’t great. The white sand beaches of central Queensland are absolutely beautiful, with school holidays starting we couldn’t believe how empty the beaches have been, even in popular areas like Agnes Water. Being summer it’s stinger season so many people avoid the ocean as a run in with a Box Jelly or and irakangi can be at best extremely painful but can also be deadly! After a great day at the beach we headed back to the campground to spend sundown at Workman’s Beach, as we made our way down to the water we ran into a surfer on his way back to his site after an evening surf, he must have been 70! I hope I’m still active enough at that age to be surfing and camping. We go back to camp for a spaghetti dinner and a couple beers, we bought a great Coleman travel lantern from Canadian Tire before we left home and it has been brilliant! A small travel version of the large lantern we own it has 4 removable sections so it can be used as one unit or take the individual lights off to spread the light around your tent or cooking area. For such a small little lantern it throws a ton of light and makes life easy when cooking after dark or trying to read or play cards in camp at night.

We were up which the sun the next morning, I’m not sure if it was the heat or the excitement of going for a morning surf and christening my new board! After a quick breakfast and a coffee we broke camp and set off for the beach. It was a perfect morning, sun was shining, the water was warm and clear and the surf was good but not huge which was good as I’m still a beginner – intermediate surfer and believe it or not Carly my Australian wife was trying surfing for the first time! After a quick beach demo for Carly we hit the water. What a way to start the day! Not exactly a display of surfing prowess but we had a blast and both got up a few times enjoying every minute of being in the ocean. My new board is amazing, the 7’6 Mini Mal is fantastic for my skill level and I find it easier to get up on than the shorter boards and easier to handle and paddle In the waves than a full blown 9′ plus Malibu. If you missed our first post I got the board from Sideways Surf Outlet As the morning wore on the surf got bigger and it was getting on in the day, so exhausted we reluctantly grabbed our boards and jumped in the truck and set off for Carly’s old stomping grounds of Rockhampton, Yeppoon then on to Airlie Beach, the Whitsunday Islands and the Great Barrier Reef!

In Wandering Winters next post; bat caves, Dreamtime Aboriginal Centre, Airlie Beach, waterfalls, lizards, snakes, Ocean Rafting, the Whitsundays and lots more fun. See you soon!

More pics to come when we get to a computer to upload off the camera!

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Australia – The Adventure Begins

Being back in Australia has been incredible so far, for Carly it’s always great to be home and for me there has been a real sense of familiarity after our brief visit last year. Seeing family and old friends has been amazing for both of us and we’re still humbled by everyone who came to share the day with us in Manly for the Wedding celebration. I must mention the night before the Aussie wedding party we met some of the family at the Waterloo Bay Hotel for “tea” (Australian for dinner). The Waterloo Bay Hotel seemed to be no different than any other pub, a restaurant section with a nice outdoor seating area, a gaming room aka “pokies” with video gaming machines etc. but I was wrong! Carly’s uncles were insisting that I come to the other bar to get a drink with them, already having a beer I was confused but it seemed important so I followed them to the other room. I had been to a few pokies joints before and I still didn’t get why I had to see this one. It turned out that it was Thursday which meant topples servers! NOW I got it, the brunette working was certainly worth walking to the other bar for, cheers gents! Gambling, sports and servers in nothing but a g-string! Australia, what a country.

After the party on the 29th our focus switched to gathering gear we needed for our road trip and of course finding a vehicle, an essential part of any road trip. We had been checking a number of websites that backpackers use to post vehicles in Australia spending most of our time searching the listings on Gumtree We ended up finding a number of potential vehicles all listed at Southside Auto Auctions located in the Brisbane suburb of Underwood, so drove down for a visit. On our first trip we found a great looking Mitsubishi Pajero AND it was a turbo diesel! After chatting with Mark from the sales team about the process and additional costs (registration, government fees etc) we put in an offer of $4,000 to the owners. Our offer was accepted! However after a closer mechanical inspection the old Pajero didn’t live up to its looks. Mark was extremely helpful and understanding we wanted to get moving as soon as we could said to give him a few days and he would find the right vehicle for our trip.

We hitched a ride with Carly’s brother Luke down to the Gold Coast for the weekend to relax and enjoy a little luxury before living out of a tent for the next few months. Carly’s mother had sprung for 2 nights at Jupiters Hotel & Casino in Broadbeach, just south of Surfers Paradise. Surfers Paradise is a bit of a tourist trap and a little busy for us but still a cool spot to visit and the hotel was great. Being up at Broadbeach is a little more relaxed and the beach itself is beautiful. We had plans to surf the days away and enjoy nice dinners out on the town, however after a busy couple of weeks and 2 weddings we decided to spend our days strolling on the beach and that’s about it. In fact the second night we ate in our room and watched Shark Week until we passed out! Sounds a little lame I must confess but it was brilliant!

We returned to Brisbane Monday afternoon and popped into Southside to see Mark. After a quick walk around the yard we found a couple of trucks that might fit the bill. Keeping in mind the areas of the country we are visiting there were certain things we had to have, like 4×4, decent ground clearance, ample room for us and gear and bull bars. The bull bars really are essential as we’ve been told driving as many miles as we are NOT hitting a kangaroo is unlikely (really hoping we can avoid this). After narrowing down the list with mark we decided to put in an offer on a 1989 Toyota 4Runner, a little older than we wanted but it had low Km’s, was in great shape and had just about all the features we were after. We were able to talk the owners down from 6k to $4,100.00 and after three long days of waiting for mechanical inspections etc. we had our chariot! If you’re looking for a affordable vehicle in the Brisbane area we highly recommend both Gumtree and specifically Mark from Southside. To make the day even better we popped into Sideways Surf Outlet and after a little negotiating with Carly I was able to buy a new surf board! Being the giant I am I opted for a 7’6 mini mal which is a slightly shorter version of the classic Malibu style long board. If you’re in the market for a new board at a great price or for any surf gear check out Sideways! It’s a discount surf shop with incredible prices on everything you need from clothing to boards. I got the board, fins, a board bag, ankle leash and sure wax for $400! A new truck and a new surf board in one afternoon, now that’s my kind of Monday!

Having the extra days in Brisbane worked out well as it gave us time to get all the gear we needed and allowed us to catch up with some friends from Banff who are back in Oz. We went out to the Sushi Train for dinner with friends Carla and Drew on Wednesday night, it’s actually scientific fact that everything tastes better when it arrives to your table by train! It was an interesting experience as I have never been to a restaurant where you can BYOB, but this was the case at Sushi Train and the staff will even put your beers in the fridge for you!

We picked up “Tanner” the Toyota on Friday afternoon and rushed home to pack up. In the excitement to get on the road we overlooked the fact that it was not only a Friday afternoon but it was the last day of school before summer break for the kids and we payed for this oversight but fighting brutal traffic trying to get out of the Brisbane area! It was slow going but we were finally on the road and loving it, wrong side of the road and all!

Our next post will include Brisbane to Rainbow Beach, Ewan’s first Kangaroo in the wild, Agnes Water and more!

Be well and chat soon!

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Mexico to Australia – The good, the bad & the ugly

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After 17 glorious days in Mexico with family and friends for the wedding we’re ready to start our honeymoon adventure travelling around Australia’s east coast.

Being in the tourism industry we live much of our lives at odds with a hangover, so it seemed fitting to start our honeymoon in the same fashion. The night before we left Mexico was my fathers 60th birthday AND my parents 38th wedding anniversary, and with 40 odd close friends and family there, we had a great party! At the time of course it was a great idea! especially sharing the bottle of Johnny Walker Platinum with dad and a few of his buddies, needless to say waking up at 6:00am the next day was rough.

With our bags packed and final goodbyes given we set off to return our trusty rental Jeep Wrangler in Cancun. This seemed like a fairly easy task, we have rented vehicles on multiple occasions in the area and were always able to easily locate the rental offices near the airport….. This time not so much! To be fair we never really looked into where the Cancun office for America / Tulum / Cancun (all the same company) Rent a Car was so we must accept some of the responsibility on this one. We had left Tulum at 8:00am giving us plenty of time to get the Jeep washed (it was in desperate need of a clean) make the 1.5 hour drive to Cancun and be at the airport for our 1:30pm flight, well planned we thought!

We pulled off at Playa Del Carmen at a seemingly quiet little car wash service to clean up the Jeep in an attempt to mask the fact it was not always on a “paved” road. We pull into the tent and we’re surrounded by 6 teenaged boys rags and buckets in hand. The oldest looking one asks what kind of clean we want and for $80 pesos they were off! It was incredible, seriously loud dance music starts and like something out of a music video these six kids get to work with incredible efficiency and in about 10 minutes the Jeep is sparkling.

We continue into Cancun still with plenty of time to return the car and get to the airport to make our 1:30 flight. After 40 minutes or so driving around the airport and surrounding area we give up and use McDonald’s for in my opinion the only thing it’s good for, free quality WiFi. The rental office is not by the airport, there’s one in downtown Cancun and another in the hotel zone about 20 minutes from Cancun international, so we speed to the hotel zone now getting worried about making our flight on time. Once again the staff at Tulum Car Rental were fantastic and extremely helpful. We explained the time crunch and the shop manager had a 5 second once over of the vehicle then got one of his staff to drive us to the airport so we wouldn’t miss our flight. By the time we arrived at the airport it was almost noon so we were cutting it close, to our delight the line up at the Delta Airlines counter wasn’t too long so we were safe…..

We get to the counter and are about to apologise for running a little behind when the Delta desk agent says “wow, you’re early” We laughed thinking he was poking fun at the fact we we’re rushing to make clear security and make our flight when we realised that he wasn’t kidding. He handed us an itinerary that was not even close to what we had booked! Our original flight plan looked like this;

CUN – ATL Departing 1:30pm – ATL – LAX Departing 7:30pm – LAX – BNE Departing 11:30pm. This was a great series of flights, no long layovers and we were avoiding the hassle of Sydney and a domestic flight change in Australia which entails a bus service to another terminal that seems to be 15 miles from the international one.

Our NEW itinerary however looked like this;

CUN – LAX Departing 7:30pm – LAX – SYD Departing 8:00pm the following day! – SYD – BNE.

WE WERE LIVID! If these changes had been made to our entire itinerary why were we not contacted? If we had known this ahead of time we could have spent the day on the beach in Tulum, planned a day of sightseeing in LA and told people expecting to pick us up in Brisbane about the changes. After some deep breathing we decided that there was nothing we could do at this point and had to suck it up, after all what is travel without a challenge or two. If you have never been to the Cancun airport, you really don’t want to be super early for flights as you are essentially stuck there as it will cost about $50 US Dollars to get into town. So as you can tell from the above photo we “relaxed” in the airport for the next 7.5 hours.

We arrived in LA and quickly made our way to the Delta customer service desk to tell them what had happened and that we were not impressed, our main concern was trying to find a hotel room in LA on a Saturday night before American Thanksgiving. After what I will call a spirited debate the staff at Delta were able to set us up at the Airport Marriott for $79 (we are still “debating” on who will foot the bill) and on the bright side we now had a full day to spend in Los Angeles.

The next morning we checked out early, left our baggage with the concierge and asked front desk what to do for our one day in LA. The desk agent was fantastic she gave of a list of options then gave us free bus passes to get us down to one of her favourite areas in LA called Manhattan Beach. Despite the hassles with our flights we ended up having a fantastic day at the beach. Manhattan Beach is a small coastal town located between Santa Monica and Long Beach, it’s a trendy spot with lots of great little shops and restaurants. We spent our day wandering the main drag with little side ventures into the residential streets to admire the homes and high-end cars that fill the area. For lunch we went to one of the coolest little dive bars I’ve ever visited called the Shellback Tavern. Located right above Manhattan Beach Pier this little surf pub has it all. Great food, friendly service, old wood floors and a bar and cash registers that haven’t been updated since it opened. The servers working the floor knew just about everyone who walked through the door, from teenagers to a couple who sat beside us who I’m guessing were at least in their seventies. Combine the views, ambiance, service, food quality and the fact that menu prices range from $3 – $15 this is a must do if you’re passing though LA.

Shellback Tavern the best give bar in So Cal

Shellback Tavern the best give bar in So Cal

After a what turned out to be a fantastic day in LA we returned to LAX to catch our flight to Sydney. We were delighted to find out that the flight was nowhere near full which meant that we had a full row of three seats for just the two of us! 14.5 hours later and we were in the beautiful land down under. Wasting no time we rushed through the terminal to fulfil a couple of Aussie cravings we both were having

Caramello Koalas, BBQ Shapes and beer!

Caramello Koalas, BBQ Shapes and beer!

The trip had started off on the wrong foot, as we felt like we were robbed of a day in Mexico but all in all it worked out for the best. It goes to show that especially when travelling, if you just smile and roll with it, you never know where you might end up!

Chat soon Ewan & Carly

Wedding #2 Aussie style

We’re jumping ahead in our timeline briefly for a quick update. We’re currently setting up for the Australian wedding celebration at the Moreton Bay Trailer Boat Club. Located in the Brisbane suburb of Manley this beautiful marina is nestled into Moreton Bay and offers great views of the water, well appointed function space and great service. It should be a great night!

We will tell you all about it soon!

EW

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Our Favourite Riviera Maya Beaches

Carly and I have been visiting Tulum and the surrounding areas of the Riviera Maya yearly for the past 4 years and have done our best to see as much as we can. There is so much to see and do I know we will be visiting this region for years to come. In today’s post we will share a small list of some of our favourite beaches in the area. There are many great spots to relax, swim and catch some rays but these top our list.

Beaches!

We’ll start with beaches as this is the reason most of us from colder climes visit this region of Mexico. You can find beautiful beaches from the hustle and bustle of Cancun all the way down to the quiet out-of-the-way town of Punta Allen on the southern tip of the Sian Ka’an biosphere reserve. Our favourite beach on the Yucatan peninsula is Playa Paraiso, also referred to as Tulum Beach by some, though not to be confused by the beach at the ruins themselves.

Beach beers at Playa Tulum - Tulum Mexico

Beach beers at Playa Tulum – Tulum Mexico

Playa Paraiso

Playa Paraiso

This beach is ranked as one of the worlds best beaches and for good reason. Still a relatively undeveloped area (no big resorts, just small eco cabana rentals and a couple small hotels) Playa Paraiso is open to the public and has spectacular swimming, decent snorkelling and great views of the Ruins at Tulum. The reef right off shore used to be incredible but it is starting to die off in some places now. We have camped and or rented cabanas on this beach many times and love the laid back vibe. The tranquility of this area has made Playa Paraiso our “home” on many trips and it’s beauty will keep us coming back for years to come. Be sure to visit our friends Suds & Luca, they run the beach bar at Zazil Kin. Beers are $25 pesos and happy hour (which seems to be all day everyday) means 2 cocktails for $60 pesos. The boys are fantastic, local and will happily introduce you to some of the local characters like Papy Pirata! Be sure to try the Caipirinhas! Quiet by day, great fresh seafood right on the beach and opportunities for night life of nearby Tulum it simply can’t be beat. For the adventurous or those travelling on a backpackers budget accommodations can be found along the beach ranging from $50 pesos per night for tent sites at Mariachi, to hotel rooms that can run as much as $800 or $900 pesos. We usually stay in the palm thatched cabanas at Mariachi or Zazil Kin for around $300 – $450 pesos a night depending on the time of year.

Us with the gang at Zazil Kin - Tulum

Us with the gang at Zazil Kin – Tulum

Now if Playa Paraiso is still not quiet enough for you and you have a vehicle (4×4 is recommended) you can visit what we refer to as “our beach” as we have no idea what its actual name is and we have never really seen anyone else on it save a few local spear fishermen who simply say it’s a beach. If you head south from Tulum on the road to Punta Allen you will pass through Boca Pila then into the Sian Ka’an reserve. The road is never great but this trip was a whole new level of adventure! When we stopped at the gate to pay the entrance fee ($28 pesos per person) the guy at the post said “mucho agua” now I had heard this before and usually it meant a lot of puddles….. this really was MUCHO AGUA! Glad we had the Jeep Wrangler!

The "road" to Punta Allen! It's a Jeep thing!

The “road” to Punta Allen! It’s a Jeep thing!

Topes is spanish of speed bump! Kind of a moot point

Topes is spanish of speed bump! Kind of a moot point

The beach we visit on this road is about 15km into the reserve, you will see a windmill running wind power for a little eco resort and the beach will be visible on the left. This is roughly a mile if not more of white sand, crystal caribbean ocean and no one in sight, absolute paradise! Here are two pictures for you, the first a neat effect from a panoramic shot I took with my iPhone, the second a “had to be done” KCCO shot for our pals at The Chive!

A neat effect from a panoramic shot of the beach past Boca Pila

A neat effect from a panoramic shot of the beach past Boca Pila

KCCO from our Mexican wedding!

KCCO from our Mexican wedding!

If you continue to the end of the road after a swim you will reach the small fishing village of Punta Allen. It’s a quiet little town with some great restaurants and opportunities for amazing fishing tours, mangrove tours and if you’re lucky you may spot crocs, manatees, tapirs and tons of birds! I actually proposed to Carly on the beach at Punta Allen making the beach there another of our favourites for obvious reasons.

On this excursion we took our nephew with us to body surf and got really lucky and were able to watch a crocodile hunting fish in a channel right before town.

Body surfing at Boca Pila in the Sian Ka'an

Body surfing at Boca Pila in the Sian Ka’an

Last but certainly not least, if it’s snorkelling you’re after head north to Akumal. There are some great opportunities right off shore or if you hire a guide you can get out to turtle reef (not just a clever name). I love the ocean and all its creatures but there is something special about being in the water with sea turtles, and this area never disappoints. There is also Akumal beach which is lovely and again a lot quieter than the beaches in Canun or Playa Del Carmen.

If you have any questions please leave them in the comments section of fire away on Twitter and we would be happy to answer them for you. We will be back shortly with our next post on some of the other great sites and attractions in the area. Chat soon EW.