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Early Retirement Travels - Week 4 Australia

Lake McKenzie, Fraser Island, Australia

We're loving Australia, even with the frequent references to potential death by wildlife. I'm still wondering if these are to scare the tourists or whether they're all deadly (pardon the pun) serious.

Our plan for the week was a 3 day/2 night Fraser Island trip, relaxing in Noosa, and then to Brisbane for we didn't know what.

There was a special test for Sally - 5 nights in shared dormitory accommodation - until now, we'd stayed in private rooms, even when staying in a hostel.

We knew the 2 nights on Fraser Island would be in dorms, but we'd increased the challenge. Trying to negotiate a discount on our Fraser Island trip, the best we got was free dorm accommodation for the night before and two nights after. We took this, planning to trade up to a private room and pay the difference, but there was no availability. We could stay elsewhere, but Sally said that was a waste of money, so dorm sleeping it was.

I've stayed in dorms a few times before, and it's OK. In fact, when travelling solo, it's a good way to meet people. Sally's view is that, in our forties, we're past the dorm stage of life, and she's happy to have missed it during her teens and twenties too. I crossed my fingers, perhaps she'd enjoy it?

Along with last week's visit to the Whitsunday Islands, Fraser Island was billed as an absolute must do. A World Heritage site, the world's largest sand island measures 123km in length and 23 km at it's widest point. The beach is the main highway, with traffic rules and police - a little surreal.

We'd booked a tag along tour - a lead 4x4 vehicle driven by a guide and three other vehicles follow in convoy. You can share in the driving if you wish. We were nervous about this, but we'd put our name down as drivers none the less.

Parts of Fraser Island are beautiful and spectacular. Lake McKenzie, the coastline and views from Indian Head are amongst these. But with a myriad of beautiful beaches and vistas around so many corners in Australia, I didn't feel that Fraser Island was much, if at all, above these. I therefore wonder whether we got much extra for the relatively high cost of the trip.

Like the Whitsunday trip, the group was mainly young twenty somethings, a smattering of teenagers, and Sally and myself who have kids their age. One person actually asked why we hadn't "booked the old people's tour"!😱 If there is such a thing, I probably wouldn't join it out of principle, but the truth is we weren't quite on the right tour for us.

That said, we had some fun and interesting conversations with the youngsters. The guide also took time to answer our questions about the history of the island, it's plants and wildlife, and pointed out dingo, whale and turtle, which were our highlights. And perhaps that's the difference we're looking for, a tour that is more about the history and the nature, and less like a boisterous school trip. If that's the "old people's tour" then maybe I should look into it.

For both Fraser Island and last week's Whitsunday Islands trip, we enjoyed it, we're glad we did it, but we could have done it better. Our lesson is to be less trusting of the travel agent booking the tour, and do more research ourselves. And possibly to accept that we're no longer in our early twenties.

We got back from Fraser Island around 6pm and gave the "after party" a miss, instead enjoying a lovely little Italian restaurant and a good bottle of Australian red wine. We were back on more familiar territory, and I suspect Sally temporarily forgot the dorm room awaiting us.

In fairness, she was OK with the dorm. It's more that our finances don't need us to stay in them in which case we can count our dorm experience for this trip as done. Sally can tick that box, although I suspect she'd say she didn't need to.

The day before and the day after Fraser Island were spent in Noosa, a pretty beach resort, with cafes, restaurants, shops and boutiques. We relaxed, went on walks along the coast and in the National Park, ate in the cafes, had fish and chips by the sea (where they always taste better), and lazed on the beach. Not a bad way to spend a few days.

And then we headed to Brisbane, of which we'd heard mixed reviews. Some said it was worth a visit, and we'd met others who thought otherwise.

With superhosts, Letitia & David in Brisbane

I'd contacted Letitia and David, a couple I knew from running in Dubai, who had returned to live in Brisbane 10 months before, and we met up on Friday evening for drinks in a riverside bar. It was great fun catching up, even with the slightly aching head the next morning.

The following day they took us up Mount Coot Tha for wonderful views over the city, before Sally and I spent the afternoon strolling by the river, then sitting in the sun at vibrant South Bank. After our dorm living, we treated ourselves to a nice hotel in Brisbane, and spent the evening enjoying the luxury. The hotel was in the CBD, and we got a great rate as the weekend days are their quiet time.

Super-hosts Letitia and David collected us again the following morning for a family day with them and their young kids, Isla and Alex. David and I took the kids for a walk/bike ride, Letitia cut Sally's hair, we chatted and played with the kids, and had a thoroughly wonderful day. Our visit to Brisbane was much more than we expected.

In different ways, Brisbane, Fraser Island and the Whitsunday Islands have reminded us what travelling is about. Yes it's about seeing and enjoying new places, but it's just as much about the people you meet. David and Letitia made Brisbane for us and, despite the age differences, we enjoyed meeting, and were very impressed with, many of the twenty somethings that we met on Fraser and Whitsunday. They were there to have fun, and sometimes they were boisterous, but we also saw how confident, articulate and intelligent most of them were. I think they'll do OK. And now I really am starting to sound old!

Daily diary and costs

I'm including a list of what we did during our week and the approximate costs - I'm using this part of my blog as a mini diary for myself, but feel free to read if you're interested.

Week 4 - what we've done:

Monday - A 7am start for our Fraser Island trip

Tuesday - Fraser Island

Wednesday - Fraser Island, returning to Noosa at 6pm

Thursday - A stroll through Noosa town, breakfast in a café, before a hike in the National Park followed by a picnic.

Friday - Bus journey from Noosa to Brisbane. A quiet afternoon wandering around the CBD, before a night out with Letitia and David.

Saturday - Brisbane. A haricut before a trip up Mount Coot Tha with Letitia and David for fantastic views of the city, Strolling along the river to Kangaroo Point and back to South Bank to relax in the sun.

Sunday - Brisbane. A fun family day with Letitia and David

Week 4 - we spent a total of £1,244 / $1,752 for 2 people on:

Accommodation £217 / $306

Meals/Coffee/Snacks £315 / $442 (still eating out and consuming more beer & wine than we should)

Toiletries/Sun Cream £14 / $20

Taxis £12 / $16 (transfers to/from airport in Bali and Cairns)

Trips £630 / $889 (Fraser Island trip - 3 days/2 nights)

Laundry £7 / $10

Clothes £23 / $32

Haircut £23 / $33

Other £3 / $4


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