Week Three & Four on the Road: Wild Whales & Nature Trails
Our third week on the road began in Hervey Bay, possibly the capital of whale watching (I could be making that up-but they did have gigantic whale statues practically throughout the whole city). It's also where my lovely passionfruit farmer, Jim, suggested we visit with it being whale watching season and all (mid July-mid November).
There were heaps of tours to choose from online, but of course we managed to go with the cheapest one (which also happened to be the most whale friendly one-win win for me). We toured with a whale conservation organisation called the 'Pacific Whale Foundation', where 100% of their profits (so they say) goes towards whale research, education and conservation programs around Australia.
Lucky for us, we had the quintessential tour guide (an American girl in her 20's), who was enthusiastic, filled with facts and statistics about the whales and borderline over-hospitable (handing out free snacks and drinks and continually checking with each and every one of us if we were okay and having a good time). But she was great and in the end I couldn't help but tip her $10 for her guidance on an unforgettable experience. (She also spent the last 5 minutes of the tour talking about ways in which we can help to save the aquatic environment, which totally won me over even more).
So if you are planning on going to watch some beautiful, gigantic creatures in their natural habitats, then I would 100% recommend going with the Pacific Whale Foundation in Hervey Bay. The boat held enough for 30 people which was a perfect amount (not too overcrowded), and everyone was able to watch from every angle. And if you don't spot any whales (highly unlikely) then you get all your money back (win-win). And if you're really, really lucky then you may even spot some other wildlife along the way, like dolphins and turtles.
Agnes Water & 1770-
After our fabulous day out with the Pacific Whale Foundation, we made our way up to a small coastal town called Agnes Waters (next to the town of Seventy-Seventy, such a weird name for a town I know). I believe that these two neighboring towns are famous for that Captin Cook 'discovering' the land Australia (in the year 1770 funnily enough), whereby he callously claimed these towns (and the rest of Auz) as his own; thus resulting in a mass oppression of the aboriginal people of the land (not to mention the detrimental European diseases they brought over which took a blow to the indigenous population-Not something to be so proud of I would probably say).
Anyway regardless of this little history lesson/horror story, although there's not a great deal to do (other than heaps of nature trails), Agnes Water is rather beautiful. We stayed in a cheap camping ground called 'Workerman's campsite', which had a really authentic set up and is probably one of my favourite places we've camped so far. What I loved best about the site is that there were at least five different nature trails you could take (which we're exclusive to the camp site so not a lot of people know about them).
One of them which we took at sunset (which we walked barefoot and Henrik complained the whole way of his feet hurting), led to a breath taking look out on a cliff-face, where you could observe about three different beaches from a 360 angle. It was there at this moment, with the soft sky's glowing with a gentle taint of pink (like a gooey toasted marshmallow), that Henrik dropped the L bomb.
On my behalf there was a momentarily pause of disbelief (mainly because I thought he'd opened his mouth only to complain once more about his bare feet hurting amongst the gravel path). "You love me?" I replied, still in shock that it wasn't another complaint. "Yeah I do". "Oh, okay, I love you too". And that was that. I remember feeling a little elated, yet calm and peaceful all at the same time. I suppose though, when you end up spending this much time with someone you care about (almost 6 months of living together), you're either going to end up hating them or loving them (so I'm glad that it was love).
So anyway, Agnes Water was a great little spot for nature, and as recommendation from the man running the camp site, we took a bush hike which led to to three (pretty much secret) beaches where we had each beach to ourselves! That was pretty cool but unfortunately I think we were developing the 'just another beach' syndrome (perhaps a common problem for vagabonders). So whilst we enjoyed our time at Agnes Water, we were more than ready to embrace a bit of city life.
Especially as there was no phone reception, no internet connection and the only wifi available we could find was at the local library (which literally took 4 hours to upload my previous blog's video, rather than the usual 5/10 minutes it should have taken). But anyway, it's not all about social media I know. And if you do find yourself in Agnes Waters, then make sure you check out this awesome vegan cafe called Sol. They offer super cheap lunch deals (where I had the most divine homemade curry served with black rice for only $9.50). They also have a really cool scheme going on right now, where if you fill up a bag of rubbish and bring it back, then you receive a free smoothie from them.
Also if you're lucky enough to get there at the right time, they hold a huge market on the fourth Sunday of every month. Unfortunately Henrik and I hadn't done our research very well and we only managed to catch the last fifteen minutes of it (mainly my fault due to “losing my purse” which after emptying the entire contents of our van, turned out to be in my bag-oops). The market is also quite close to the town of Seventy-Seventy, which was pretty much “just another beach" and nothing too extravagantly special, but probably still worth a visit if you’re passing by. There’s also a boat trip you can take over to Lady Musgave Island (the southern point of the Great Barrier Reef), but Henrik and I decided to skip out on this one as you just simply can't do 'em all (unless you're a millionaire who for some reason has the desire to visit every single one of the 8,222 island’s surrounding the coasts of Australia).
Our next stop was Rockhampton, which was of course, further up North. This meant two things: crocodiles and free camps. So now we were in crocodile territory, this meant we could no longer just take a dip in any river we fancy without a few precautions. Most of the beaches from here on-wards will now be plastered with warning and danger signs. Gotta love Australia! We have however discovered a hell of a lot of more free camps since being up this neck of the woods. This is pretty great as it beats the whole adrenaline rush and anxiety of whether or not we're going to get caught by park rangers resulting in heavy fines. We still of course use Wikicamps to find these free places and preferable the places without crocodiles (which Wikicamps so kindly warns you-thank god).
In all honesty we didn't get up to a great deal in Rockhampton other than go to the gym (which was a nice change from our children's park workouts). We did however stumble across a free zoo next to the Botanical Gardens. If it hadn't been free, I probably would have been quite reluctant to go in there and pay to watch animals in slavery. But I pleasantly discovered that there were many conservation efforts going on inside the zoo, who were also supported by well respected groups such as Jane Goody's chimp conservation research.
Considering it was all completely free, the zoo was awesome and is definitely well worth a visit. They've got a number of endangered species in there which they're hoping to preserve (or prolong until they unfortunately but inevitably go extinct, due to humans and our devastating destruction of their habitats). If you go at the right time (around 2-4pm) you also get to witness the chimps and the koalas being fed (where you'll also receive a talk which encourages efforts to reduce destruction of their habitats such as saying no to palm oil).
I was amazed at just how intelligent the chimps were. The man looking after them clearly had a strong, intimate bond with the chimps, as they obediently listened when he asked the chimp to hand back a bamboo stick he had stolen to beat up the others. The koala however, not quite so responsive, were still fascinating to see as I've unfortunately not spotted one in the wild as of yet (I still have some hope though). On the other hand, I've spotted plenty of other wildlife (turtles, whales, dolphins, bats, possums, snakes, lizards, frogs, pelicans and about 20 other types of birds-so I certainly can't complain). As a side note: if you do visit the zoo in Rockhampton, check out the waterside in front of the zoo and next to the gardens and you'll spot hundreds of little turtles swimming about.
Whilst we were in Rockhampton, the temperatures hit record highs of 37 degrees in early spring. Summer is still a whole season away and it was already this scorching hot (time to believe in climate change I think). So naturally, we needed a place to cool down and if we couldn't go in any wild water (due to the crocs), a pool would have to do so we did just that. Online the pool seemed way cooler, with water slides and a gigantic lazy river for you to float around on big rubber rings. Unfortunately for us, these were plans to be built next month so we had to settle for a couple swimming lanes and a kids inflatable obstacle course. But the entry only cost us $2 so how could we say no. We were also told to check out Yeppoon, which we did and weren't that overly impressed by it. Perhaps nice to visit for a few hours, but we didn't seem to find anything too special there. There was another island trip you could take, which is probably one of the main attractions for Yeppoon, but we were still saving ourselves for something really special like sailing around the Whitsundays.
Our next location was Mackay, which was about a four hour drive from Rockhampton, so we decided to stop over for the night somewhere in between the two. To my wonderful surprise, when I woke up to do some morning yoga, I spotted some beautiful horses near our van. I wish I could say they were wild, but unfortunately they were someone's 'property' (because us humans like to think that we own all of the animals on this planet). Sadly for the horses, the carrots that we had were gone off (thanks to the heat), but I did manage to find some nice juicy apples which I cut up and fed to them. It was a truly magical moment which of course Henrik missed because he was busy sleeping.
When we arrived in Mackay we gladly enjoyed some more free water parks-unfortunately not the kind with massive water slides and wave machines though. That’s the one great thing about the east coast is that it’s absolutely littered with free aqua parks, outdoor exercise areas and children’s park which makes exercising on the road nice and easy.
In terms of nature and wildlife, Mackay (Mac-eye the Auzzie’s for some reason pronounce it) has a lot to offer. We camped for one night in the car park of a Cape Hillsborough National Park (big mistake as I ended up being covered head to toe in mozzie bites) where we woke up early before sunrise. We then headed down to the beach where I FINALLY got to see some wild kangaroos and wallabies! Apparently they’ve been visiting this beach at sunrise for over 30 years to eat the washed up algae. Unfortunately now however they mainly come for the tourists who have a tendency to feed them.
If you’re heading to Mackay then this is definitely a must do (just please don’t feed them). I couldn’t believe how close they got to me, so close I could even cuddle one (but I didn’t want to get either kicked or punched in the face). Despite the kangaroo’s and wallabies being the obvious main attraction, the sunrise and beach itself were also incredibly beautiful (which Henrik struggled to appreciate as he was practically still half asleep the lazy bugger). After our sunrise activities, we spontaneously drove to another beach where we spent the entire day playing chess (thanks to Henrik recently teaching me-although I still haven't beaten him...yet!).
That evening we drove an hour inland to Eungella, where we spent the night in a pub car park, as you got to camp there for free if you bought a couple drinks (how could we say no to a cheeky cider and a game of chess). The following morning we made our way to Eungella National Park, which was absolutely incredible! It was practically waterfall after waterfall, with really cool rain-forest trekking in between each fall (thankfully we didn’t see any snakes this time). The main attraction for this park is the ‘wheel of fire’ (the main waterfall), however the first one we visited was way cooler so make sure you don’t skip it if you visit.
To end our day of nature, we made our way down to Broken River which is famously known for spotting wild platypus. But unfortunately for us it wasn’t our lucky day, which I didn’t mind to much as I’d had such a fantastic day anyway! And that is the end of our third and forth week on the road (I had to squeeze two weeks into one blog due to lack of wifi and GoPro footage). I’m excited for the couple following weeks to come and sad that they will be the last (for now), but then my adventures begin in India which will be a whole new story.
Next stop, Airlie Beach!
To keep up with my journey, check out my insta: @theveganyogitraveller
To help support this blog and get yourself a FREE 30 day trail with audible, click on the link below. If you want to be able to travel long-term too, then I would definitely recommend downloading the audio book 'Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel' by Rolf Potts (you won't regret it).