Photo: Richard and Colleen at Whitehaven Beach on Australia’s Sunshine Coast
The Hurricane, The City and The Beaches
By Colleen Wileman
We left San Francisco for the island of Maui, one of the most popular islands within the Hawaiian chain.
Though it was August and predictably very hot, we stopped to visit for a few days with Richard’s sister Louise and brother-in-law Rick. They moved here about 7 years ago as Rick’s job allowed him to work anywhere – why not Hawaii? They have a beautiful condo that they have now opened as an Air BNB. It is just across the road from Charlie Beach in Kihei.
We had a wonderful few days visiting, playing on the beach, and watching the islands prepare for a major hurricane. As people stocked up on water, food and other staples, we worried that our flight may not be able to leave.
At the airport, we watched panicked people knock others down as they raced for flights, only to be turned away at the gate. As it turned out, it was all for naught. Hurricane Lane moved off the coast and only some rain and a bit of wind was the result. With absolutely no delays, we made our flight to Honolulu, spent the night and then flew out to Sydney, Australia. Easy, peasy.
We touched down in Sydney on Friday, August 24, having lost a day by crossing the International Date Line. We were met at the airport by my second cousin Norman and his best friend Sasha. For the five days that we spent in the city, we stayed with Sasha and his wife Ruth who lived within walking distance to downtown.
While there we became reacquainted with Norman and his sister Christine, sharing a meal or two and commiserating for our parents (first cousins), who had never had the chance to meet.
We explored Sydney Opera House, imagining all the wonderful concerts that have taken place there over the years. We walked through the historical dock district of The Rocks, now completely revitalized from the hard living, poverty stricken area of days gone by.
We spent a leisurely Sunday afternoon riding the ferry around Sydney Harbour and having drinks and snacks on Manley Beach. We took a two hour train ride up to the Blue Mountains and the quaint little town of Katoomba.
From there we ogled the amazing vista of the mountains and explored the legend of the Three Sisters. All too soon, it was time to say goodbye to our new friends Sasha and Ruth, and my cousin Norman. With promises of “See you soon in Canada”, we caught our flight out to Townsville.
Townsville is a small city on the Australian East Coast aka the Sunshine Coast and is about halfway between the tourist centre of Cairns and the fabulous beaches of the Whitsundays. We spent a couple of days exploring beautiful Magnetic Island, just a short ferry ride from the city. As we were travelling in the off season, the temperatures were perfect for hiking the many trails (that always seemed to be uphill!) and searching for the koala bears that live on the island.
Leaving this oasis, we rode the Greyhound bus south to Airlie Beach. This Fun in The Sun destination is the hop off point to some of the most beautiful beaches in Australia. From here we took a day cruise on a schooner, did a little snorkling and spent a couple of lazy hours in the fabulously clear, blue waters and pure white sand of Whitehaven Beach. The captain of the schooner gave us a crash course in navigation and explained how much of the Great Barrier Reef is disappearing every year due to pollution and climate change. We were quite shocked by this rapid deterioration and realized that we must all start to make an effort to ensure that the Reef and the rest of this natural beauty is around for generations to come.
Though we spent just less than a week along this coast, we loved every minute of it and were sorry to leave. However, more adventures were ahead as we flew off to Alice Springs to pick up our camper-van and spend the next 14 days exploring the Outback. It was an adventure like no other and I can’t wait to tell you about it next week!