So another update on Australia planning because, well, it's only the biggest trip of our life, so these things tend to occupy a bit of your mental space when it's now officially less than two months until we're on our way.
The latest update is that we've taken care of accommodations in Cairns. We debated staying at a Holiday Inn because we thought we spotted a good deal. However, once we bounced around all the different currency exchanges, we found out it wasn't such a great deal after all. Instead, we stumbled across a new looking hostel, found a nice room with an en suite bath and they will pick us up at the airport. The difference was nearly $300 for a six day stay, so that was that.
By the way, we started using Kayak for looking at things like accommodations and whatnot. It's not perfect, but it does save you a lot of time. And it does confirm pretty much what you already know. Barring the occasional fluke all the major travel booking sites - Travelocity, Orbitz, Priceline, Expedia, etc - all end up within a few cents of each other when you're poking around.
You've also got to watch the exchange rates. Some of the sites using Australian dollars, some US dollars and sometimes even Canadian dollars. What looks like a good deal doesn't quite work out that way once you do the exchange rates and take a look at any additional fees.
Next up in the planning is a potential act of madness. We're not particularly happy with the railway running through Queensland. I'm sure they're lovely trains and all, but their lack of frequency and the times they run is what's getting to us. It's kind of limiting where we want to stay and for how long. And yes, we could get the bus. It's how my dad travelled that part of the world when he went.
But consider it a residual hang-over from my time riding on DRL buses in Newfoundland, but I just can't do it. I don't care how comfortable the bus is, I hate riding on them. Loathe it. I can do them in cities for short period of times. But if you want to stick me on one for seven hours or so, I will go mad.
So we're looking at renting a car. I would have thought it would be too expensive and that any agency would crucify us with fees for picking up a car in one city and dropping it off in another. But surprisingly, that's not the case. There's no problem at all with renting a car in Cairns and dropping it off in Brisbane. No extra fees or anything.
The problem is trying to figure out which rental agency to go with. Some of the cheaper ones I haven't heard of before - Europcar and AutoEurope - and then there are the standbys like Avis and Budget, but which are considerably more expensive. I've also discovered it's completely useless to research if they're a reliable rental company or not. The only industry where people hate what you do more than airlines is quite possibly car rentals. I went to one site where you could evaluate the quality of different car rental agencies and rate them from 1 to 10. Excluding companies with less than 10 comments, I think the highest rating was 3. Virtually every comment was a rant filled with profanity explaining how the car company ruined their vacation.
Despite this, we will probably rent a car. I've been told by friends who have driven on the left-hand side of the road that you adapt quickly enough, although freeways can throw you for a bit. Oh, and Cathy is promising to share some of the driving, which is good. A straight shot from Cairns to Brisbane is about 1,700 km. Throw in detours off the beaten track and we'll easily be going over 2,000 km in about eight days. So breaks in driving so I can look around and enjoy the scenery will be nice.
Booking the Whitsundays is next and then after that, we'll see...
1. My bionic eyes - Liz Phair
2. Tinker behind the door - Figgy Duff
3. Mystic river - Blue Rodeo
4. Carolina drama - The Raconteurs*
5. Panama (live) - Van Halen