Episode 18: Hervey Bay (Fraser Island)/Noosa/Brisbane, Australia
Beard length (Tom): Yassir Arafat at full length.
Skin colour (both): Dirty sheep.
Location: Tokyo, Japan.
Date: 27th June 2010.
We were in the company of greatness. Jane actually spoke to him and she claims she brushed his thigh (inadvertently)! The excitement was palpable on Fraser Island, as we realised part-way through our day trip that we were sat opposite a D-list celebrity on our 4WD bus.
But who was it? You decide in a new, rarely to be repeated feature of the blog – a competition. Pick from the D-listers below and all will be revealed (including a corroborative photo) at the end of this post. Your choices are:
- Toby Anstis
- Joe Pasquale
- Sean Maguire
- Pat Sharp
- Wolf from Gladiators
This will be a relatively short post to wrap up our time in Australia. It’s fair to say that we could have expected better weather from our time in Queensland. Our chance to visit the Great Barrier Reef disappeared when the gloom that descended metaphorically following England bravely holding Algeria to a dawn-cracking draw, also descended literally, thwarting our proposed boat trip and also putting the kibosh on plans to do a quick surfing lesson.
We have since been unlucky in Noosa (where the weather was great until we’d finished pottering round town and unleashed our pasty hides on the camp swimming pool, whereupon the rain arrived) and Brisbane (where it rained persistently on our only day in town – ” The worst day of the year” said the chap with a chuckle when we dropped the van off on our final morning).
It’s 25+ degrees in Tokyo so I’ve high hopes for our skin colour here – I’ve run out of white things to compare us to!
After our Whitsunday sailing trip we had a quiet few days before descending on Hervey Bay for a trip to Fraser Island (the largest sand island in the world). Hervey Bay itself was not particularly exceptional: a very long esplanade and fish and chip shops which shut at 8pm.
Our day-trip to Fraser started early in improbable clothing considering the bitter cold. When people started boarding the bus wrapped up like they were about to climb Everest, Jane started having serious misgivings about her short-shorts and even I was regretting not putting my thermals on. Who was laughing much later when it warmed to about 6 degrees? Not us, it was still cold.
Jane was her usual blase self, but Fraser Island is clearly a special place: all the sand off Australia’s eastern coast will one day end up here; it supports a rainforest with trees 750 years old and over 2m in diameter (remember there’s no soil here); the beaches are actual highways with speed limits.
We visited several touristy spots ( a wreck, a freshwater creek, a lake) and saw some dingoes (thankfully from the bus, they’re supposedly not your average pooch), but the highlight was a light aircraft flight over the north part of the island – we know we’ve been snotty about partaking in anything frivolous and high-octane, but it was (relatively) cheap, the runway was a beach and the flight was over a world heritage site.
It was short, but great fun and gave us an appreciation of just how green this overgrown sand-bank is. It was well and truly worth the money, even Jane admitted as much.
I rounded off the day with honesty bordering on saintliness, when the lady sitting adjacent to me on the minibus back to our respective lodgings left her expensive looking SLR camera on her seat and I alerted her, before realising that to all intents and purposes it was already mine, with possession being 9/10ths of the law in my book, if not the law’s.
That was the only real activity of our last few days, apart from more driving. We passed through upmarket Noosa for a walk along the beach and an ice-cream, and we detoured along the Steve Irwin highway to the vaguely interestingly shaped Glasshouse Mountains.
We spurned Australia Zoo after conflicting reviews and all too transparent pricing ($40 to have my photo taken with a koala? I think not. Apparently for about 40p I can actually swing a crocodile around my head, smoke a hookah pipe with a babboon and play tennis with elephants in some of the South East Asian countries with lax health and safety rules, so you can keep the dozing fools thank you very much).
Our final port of call down under was Brisbane. From what we saw while it was still dry it is a very nice and, for once, bustling city. However, as we all know, there’s not much choice when the rain comes in but to go on a brewery tour.
The XXXX tour was very good – entertaining and educational with a generous four free beers at the end to wet our whistles and gear us up for the England game against Slovenia. The only downside was the ban on photography, as there was potential for some belters.
Since our flight the following day required us to be at the airport for 6.30am and the match wasn’t due to finish until 2am, we were hoping for a pleasant, quiet, relaxing experience. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be.
Whilst the result went our way, we were sat in the TV room of a hostel containing (mainly well-oiled) Irish and Scots, who had to remind themselves who they were supporting by reading Slovenia off the screen (goodness knows how some of them read it). Worse were our English companions.
One was a screechy posh girl who was very knowledgeable about football and informed everyone that the Hillsborough disaster occurred in 1982 and that the Munich air disaster killed the Busby Boys. She was also constantly encouraging England to get the ball into the box when there was no England player within 10 yards of the box.
It will surely surprise no one to hear that even she was trumped by the drunk half-woman, half-foghorn, all-lard specimen sat opposite us who kept up a constant commentary throughout. I’ll give you a thirty-second excerpt (please excuse the swearing Mum):
“C’mon England…. c’mon England….c’mon Fat Frank (the fact that she was the size of a prop forward for the Weight Watchers rugby team was obviously not important to her)…… oh, we love James Milner…… Milner you effing w#n*~r….. c’mon England….. Gareth Barry’s from my hometown……. Cole you effing w#n*~r…….. Barry you effing w#n*~r…… c’mon England…….. c’mon Fabio…… c’mon David you effing effing w#n*~r….. c’mon……. Fat Frank you effing w#n*~r….. Gareth Barry’s from my hometown……. England you are such a bunch of effing w#n*~rs…… c’mon England”
It was relentless, so it was no surprise that on 85 minutes Jane responded with “For the love of God will you just SHUT UP”. To her credit, she did (for 13 seconds).
So that was Australia – a land where everyone calls you “mate” and a bloke saying “How’s it going young fella?” can put a smile on your face for an hour. Where everyone’s relaxed and where they appear not to care that they are technologically on a par with Burkina Faso in 1987. Where blokes are blokes and some of the women are too. Where the sun shines sometimes and where the haircuts on the surfers are really quite disturbing. We emerge unstung, unbitten and with a sense of satisfaction about the obsession Aussies have about Britain (and more importantly, doing one over on Britain). I’m used to this from Evertonians being a Liverpool fan.
Perhaps our favourite thing in Australia though (and there have been many good things) occurred in the final moments, when we were casually informed that we’d been upgraded to business class for our 9 hour flight to Tokyo. These things never happen to me, never. I’ll tell you all about it in the next post.
For those who guessed Sean Maguire in the D-list competition, give yourselves a pat on the back and buy yourselves something nice. Here’s the former heart-throb in all his glory……….