Thursday, October 12, 2006

Oz Experience and Barrington Steps

On Saturday (was it Saturday? I can barely remember the days by now) I joined the Oz Experience Bus to travel from Sydney to Cairns. Oz Experience is a hop on hop off bus that takes a minimum of 10 days to travel up the coast but which recommends you stop in cities and towns along the way for a few days and make the journey last about 4 weeks.

I was a bit worried before hand since I am, well to be honest, a little older than the average Oz Experience traveller. Not too old but enough that I was worried I would the weird old guy in the corner. That was total rubbish. Oz Experience is great, so long as you are willing to have fun, join in the activities, chat to complete strangers, and drink beer then you will fit right in. There were 24 passengers on our bus and 16 nationalities. There were also two guides, the driver called Forest and the newly trained guide called Steady (they use nicknames) both were Australian so that made 17 nationalities. Forest said that never happens and pretty much sets the record. It was cool though since most people were travelling alone and had to chat to other people or go crazy. Thankfully English was the language of choice, I'd love to be able to speak German or French, or any foreign language but I've always failed miserably at the attempt.

The bus stopped frequently so none of the drives were more than a couple of hours and it was air conditioned which made the journey fairly comfortable. The first place we stopped for an official visit (discounting lunch) was a rain forest in a place called Barrington Tops. Forest and Steady walked us through the forest pointing out different plants that could either save our lives or leave us writhing in agony. The stinging tree was my particular favourite as it grew all over the forest and beside the path and would leave you with a super enhanced nettle sting that would hurt for 6 months. No one wanted to actually test this claim so we'll take it as being true.

After Barrington Tops we moved on to a farm called Barrington Steps where we spent the first night. We were staying in an old style Australian house that was probably built for the purpose of housing backpackers but looked nice and quaint. That night there were several activities available but most of us opted for the all you can eat pizza and bottles of wine we had bought in the last town some 40 Kms away. A hardy bunch went for the night kayak trip. I can kayak having actually done lessons and passed an exam, but after a bad disagreement with a weir and a stopper which swallowed me for while, I had no desire to relive that experience in the dark going over rapids. Those who did the trip said it was really cool looking up at the stars, with silence all around except for the odd splash of a paddle, or in one case a platypus which followed the boats for a few minutes.

I took the opportunity to head up a hill find a fence post to rest my camera on and take photographs of the sunset which was spectacular. I've loads of them which I will upload in the next few days.

Everyone headed to bed around 11pm, tired and weary and probably still a little jet lagged. The next morning I got up and went for another walk with my camera to catch some photos of the wild kangaroos that seemed to suddenly infest the place. Apparently there are 40 that live on the farm, but they seemed to be all over the place. They are wary animals and would not let us get within 50 feet of them, hopping off the moment the felt we were too close.

We were all on the bus around 8am and heading on to our next destination Spot X and surf camp.

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