East Coast Summary

Christina & Paul's route along the East Coast of Australia, from Sydney to Cape Tribulation
Christina & Paul’s route along the East Coast of Australia, from Sydney to Cape Tribulation

At our most northern point we have driven 5102 km (3,170 miles) in 33 days. We’ve been to the Great Barrier Reef, a handful of national parks, and taken a car ferry ride. We’ve couchsurfed twice, survived more than a few rainy days, and enjoyed the warmth of the tropics. It’s only been a little over four weeks but it has definitely felt longer. Fortunately, we’ve got a system going now and we’re excited about the next part of our adventure.

As we drive, camp, and talk to the grey nomads it’s easy to get swept up in the beauty that Australia has to offer, but it is equally hard to ignore the some of the more troubling things that have come across our path. The first time that I noticed something was amiss was after a conversation with our couchsurfing host in Townsville. Katie, our host, informed us that Cairns had had one of the wettest winters on record (winter in the north is supposed to be their dry season) and that inland they were experiencing an extremely harsh drought. This brought to mind the signs I had seen earlier in the drive for cattle for sale. Those signs didn’t mean much to me at the time, but in this context it meant that people and animals were both struggling. Not to mention the local wildlife, suffering from both drought and human traffic.

Kangaroo roadkill. This was one of the nicest looking ones...
Kangaroo roadkill. This is very intact compared to the usual ones we see on the side of the road…
Puts our "low-med-high" scale to shame
Puts our Californian “low-med-high” scale to shame

The next thing I was a little surprised by, although in hindsight I shouldn’t have been, was the extent to which the coral in the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) seemed to be have been damaged. The damage that I had seen was bleached coral, dislodged coral from the pervious storm season, and coral that had been kicked and dislodged by the distracted scuba diver (myself guilty as charged). I, like many of you, know or have heard that global climate change has had a great impact on the GBR, but to see the effects of climate change first hand was very profound. I was stuck by the sense that this world wonder could potentially be gone within a couple generations. I felt guilty for enjoying myself while diving and snorkeling, as well as for being there on a boat contributing to the degradation that I was seeing first hand. This guilt left me with the question: what can I do?

The answer to that question is not an easy one for me to answer while on this road trip. I know that with each kilometer that we drive, each plastic container we through away, and every boat ride we take we are contributing in some small way to a larger negative global force. Yet, here we are continuing on our way around Australia. I suppose that answer is: do the little things. Try to avoid buying plastic containers when possible, buy locally sourced fruits, veggies, and meats, and recycle when we can. More importantly, we re-use and repair everything we own and try to avoid buying things new—always  check your local thrift store first! I know we are probably being hypocritical blaming climate change for all the terrible things we’ve seen while directly contributing to it, but at least we’re thinking about our impact and that’s the first step. And that is what I’m, we’re, asking. Just take a moment and think about how our your actions are contributing to a larger global system and like us, start making small steps to stem the effects of climate change that so greatly impact places like the GBR and all the other beautiful places we’ve visited.

Thanks for reading my rant. Hope you enjoyed it.