Images of Auckland

The problem with travelling light is that it is hard to bring along all your photographic equipment and editing software, or, indeed, have time to use it.  So, now, back home, I have started sifting through the images and editing the better ones.

So here are the images of Auckland, way back in January….

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Mount Eden
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CBD in Black and White
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Moody sky
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From Waiheke Island
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The marina area
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Street scene

Hong Kong

Tired and weary, we visited Hong Kong as a 3 day stop-over on our way home.  Perhaps this state of mind didn’t give Hong Kong a level playing field with the other destinations that we visited over the last 3 months.  Perhaps we just wanted to get back home.

Anyway, on the positive side, the city was cool and dry compared to Queensland.  Low 20s centigrade felt like heaven.  We even swapped shorts for longs.  Hong Kong is, as expected, spectacular, with a relatively narrow strip of land between water and mountain housing skyscraper after skyscraper.

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Along this strip, the unique, brightly coloured double-decker trams trundled back and forth.

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Side streets revealed markets full of unusual food (sharks-fin, abalone, still-flapping fish, unusual fruits and vegetables).

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But it was busy and confusing and badly organised.  Signposts seemed to be non-existent.  Shopping streets were heaving with a relentless human tide.  There was no-where to sit, no parks, no benches.

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So we decided to escape to Cheung Chau, an island half an hour by ferry away from Hong Kong.  It was much more tranquil there, and it provided a glimpse to what life would have been like in Hong Kong a few decades ago…

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Fishing boats, old men chatting in the streets, fish drying on any available surface.

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So Hong Kong was interesting and, I understand, there are spectacular walks in the countryside around the city, but, for me, it was a place that I won’t rush back to.

Far North Queensland

Far North Queensland

Heading north from the Whitsundays, we had a long road trip, towards our final destination of Port Douglas.  The most notable stop was Mission Beach, a village with a bit of an “alternative” feel to it.  Our Airbnb there was an old wooden Queenslander house – a bit of luxury, especially when we were met by our host with a cup of tea and homemade cakes.

As we headed north the climate got hotter and more humid and the natural world around us became more interesting – with huge beautiful butterflies, lush forests, unusual birds (such as the endangered Cassowary) and mountains with streams and swimming holes.  The coast became more beautiful but the signs warning of the dangers from crocodiles and marine stingers became more insistent.

Skirting Cairns, we arrived in the small town of Port Douglas.  Apparently this was an even smaller town 20 years ago but has now been surrounded by posh resorts which support a vibrant bar and restaurant scene in the town centre.  It also has its own river or “inlet” that is the home of several abandoned yachts and some very large crocodiles.

The town attracts visitors for two main reasons, the Great Barrier Reef and the Rainforest.  Both are unique and highly important from a scientific point of view.  Visitors to both are carefully managed to ensure that tourism causes minimum damage.  Both are amazing to see and get close to.  With the reef I was fortunate enough to get above it ( in a helicopter) and down into it by scuba diving.

The rainforest meets the reef at Port Tribulation.  

This is also just about where roads finish and further progress north is by four wheel drive vehicles.  It is also just about where our Australian adventure ends.

Whitsunday Islands

Whitsunday Islands

Roughly two thirds of the way up the Bruce Highway between Brisbane and Cairns is the town of Airlie Beach.  The town has a bit of a backpacker / party feel to it, but it is a popular destination because it is the gateway to the Whitsundays…a group of 70 odd islands sitting between the mainland and the Great Barrier Reef.

With only 2 days to see the Whitsundays we decided to prioritise with a day on Whitehaven Beach and a day on Hamilton Island.

Whitehaven Beach is an unspoilt and undeveloped stretch of white sand.  The 99% pure silica sand is so white that it remains cool underfoot as it reflects the heat of the sun. 

The beach is fringed by forests that are the home to huge lizards that have the unnerving habit of appearing beside you as you are relaxing.  There are also lots spiders and seabirds around.

We then visited the more exclusive Hamilton Island.  

This island is unusual in that the best way to get around is on one of the hundreds of golf buggies hired out by the day or by the hour.

The Whitsundays are an absolutely beautiful group of islands and, whilst a visit will make a dent in your budget, it is well worth it.

Fraser Island

Fraser Island

A short ferry hop from the mainland, Fraser Island is a place unlike anything I have ever seen before.  An island made of pure sand…but covered in rain forest 

and with crystal clear lakes.  

It can only be navigated by 4 wheel drive vehicles and the sand tracks through the forests are extremely bumpy.

On the far side of the island is a wide beach over 70 miles long that is an official highway and a landing strip for light aircraft. 

 The beach is also the final resting place for several ships.

The best view of the island is from the air, where you can see the shape of lakes and dunes.

But you have to trust in a 40 year old plane taking off from the sand highway, with a very young pilot timing takeoff and landing by looking at when the big waves surge up the beach by peering through a salty windscreen.!! 

Noosa

Noosa

I intended to write one blog post covering the whole of our Queensland road trip from Brisbane to Port Douglas but after our first stop, in Noosa, I realise that there is going to be way too much to squeeze in.  

So Noosa is one of the nicest places I have ever visited… It has multiple beaches, great wildlife, good shops and restaurants, friendly laid-back people, and lots of opportunities for messing about on the water.

Because it is so nice everyone wants to live in Noosa and the rich and famous have built huge houses on the waterfronts.

All credit to the local government, they have rejected development plans for apartment blocks and casinos to retain the natural beauty of the place.

If I had the money (and the citizenship!) I would live in Noosa.

Brisbane

Brisbane

Flying north from Sydney to Brisbane takes no time at all.  Literally, because the hour that passes in the air is offset by an hour’s time-zone difference.  This also makes Brisbane unusual in that it gets dark so early, at about 6:30 even in the summer…when noisy and spectacular displays by Rainbow Lorikeets and Fruit Bats take place.

Brisbane is a hot sub-tropical city.  The climate can be a draw for some, or a deterrent for others, depending on your love of the sun.  Personally, a place that has winter temperatures similar to English summer has a lot of attractions!

On to the city.  Like other Australian cities it has a gleaming Central Business District.

And it has a magnificent meandering tidal river at its heart, plied by commuter catamarans.

On the south bank, opposite the CBD is an area imaginatively called Southbank.  Whilst it has a range of restaurants and bars, the area is remarkable for its use of space to give Brisbanites somewhere to play.  Parks, performance spaces, and a beach / swimming pool right by the river.

The city has sprawling suburbs, that, without planning restrictions, go on for miles.  Commuter trains exist but probably not to the extent needed, so roads get busy and, with apartment blocks springing up all over the place, congestion will get worse.

We were fortunate enough to be staying with some lovely friends who gave us a wonderful insight into Australian life.  Schools runs, sports and clubs after school and at weekends, good food, and a friendly, helpful network of friends and neighbours.  With rainforest walks at Mount Glorious only an hour away family life can also have an outdoors element.  

All things considered, Brisbane seems to offer the perfect lifestyle…if you can take the heat!