First things first. I’m alive, I’m kicking AND I’m full to the brim with stories to share from the past couple of months jet-setting throughout Australia. I’ve been all the way up the east coast from Melbourne to Cairns, over to Perth on the west coast and all the back down to Melbourne via Adelaide and the Great Ocean Road…so we’ve got plenty to be getting on with. I promise this isn’t going to be a lengthy detailed itinerary on what I got up to each day or what I had for breakfast, and I will be skipping over the not-so-noteworthy places but there’s still so much to tell! Since I’ll be coming to the end of my three months in Australia its about time I got it all written down before some my new adventures begin in New Zealand at the end of this month. So click the kettle on, sit down and put your feet up because we’ve got a lot of catching up to do…
Carrying on from where I left off last time, I was about half way up the east coast talking about surf boards and space cakes in To the moon and back…via Nimbin. …(much to my gran’s disappointment). I ended it here intentionally because up next on the list was Brisbane, where I split from the hustle and bustle of backpacker life and went to stay with my Uncle Peter’s friends he hung around with in Belgium back in the 80’s. Nowadays, they live in the Brisbane suburbs and when Pete heard that I was heading to their neck of the woods, he reached out to them, and they took me in – taking the time to welcome me into their lives for the weekend and let me experience life in Brisbane as a local. I spent my first day exploring the national park right behind their house, going on a wee adventure into the bush all by myself. It was also the first time I’d been jogging since Byron Bay and instead of running alongside sandy beaches and scenic sea views I was pelting over marshlands and panic sprinting away from the biggest spiders I’d ever seen. It was great.
Brisbane, as a city was actually a lot cooler than I’d expected. All the way up the east coast I’d heard from other backpackers that it was a fun place to visit, but only for a day or two before you felt you’d seen and done everything and were ready to move on. I don’t know if it was because my expectations were set so low that I enjoyed it a lot more, or because I was amongst new faces with new stories and conversations. Either way, I had a blast. The place is absolutely buzzing with things to see and do; cracking shopping streets, art galleries with great exhibitions and an immaculate river bank with access to free swimming pools, beach areas and lazy rivers. I felt like I was in some kind of movie set as nothing seemed out of place, not a single bit of litter on the pavements and no graffiti in sight.
I’ve noticed that a lot in Australia, especially in the bigger cities. Everything is very…new…and shiny. And although sometimes I’d argue that’s not necessarily a good thing, in Brisbane it actually seemed to work. It’s somewhere I’d imagine would be a fun place to study or start out in Australia. It has mountains, and subtropical rainforests. It has rivers and it’s right on the coast so you can practically see the beginnings of the great barrier reef from the shore. It’s very metropolitan, and has that hip-city feel but it also is small enough with easy to use public transport it almost feels like a great big town. I had a fab time with Ann & Harvey and couldn’t thank them enough for hosting me, feeding me and showing me the best bits of their stomping ground. And if I can help it, it won’t be too long till I go back and see them again.
But as things go, it was time to move on and get back on the big red bus up to Fraser Island; an island in Queensland made entirely of sand, found around 300km north of Brisbane. Part of the process involves stopping over in Rainbow Beach to recuperate and get de-briefed on the road rules (or lack thereof) before jumping into your 4×4 and heading for the ferry to the island the next morning. The weather forecast for the weekend wasn’t looking promising, and we grew increasingly worried as we sat and watched the ferry push through the massive waves over the short 5 minute crossing onto the Island. As soon as we got off the boat (…a success in itself after hearing the horror stories from previous groups who’d forgotten to put on their handbrakes and rolling right off the back…) the heavens just seemed to open and it started chucking it down. Great outdoor camping weather, eh?
But who were we to let a little rain (ok, a lot of rain) spoil our fun. Ten minutes after arriving on the island ploughing through waves half the size of the cars, we were as wet as we were ever going to be, so why not enjoy ourselves in the meantime? We bounded through the thick, wet rainforest and over miles and miles of sandy beaches, alternating drivers *who actually had a license*, taking turns to lob ourselves over the massive sand dunes and tree roots. Most of my time in the front seat was spent blasting music through the aux cord and winding up the cars in front on my walkie talkie. They warned me to stay off the radio because they couldn’t understand the Scottish accent, I took it as in an invitation to turn it into a one gal stand up show. It was bloody brilliant.
Over the next few days we’d spend our time stopping off at crystal clear lakes, aboriginal heritage sites and shipwrecks on the beaches. But the highlight of every day for me was getting back to the campsite at night to settle down and cook dinner with the whole gang. Before we left the mainland we were warned to take as much alcohol as we could fit into the cool box as there was no way of buying any more if we ran out. I think we all overestimated how much we could drink in just 3 days considering we had to be driving again at 8am every morning (the campsite came equipped with a breathalyser…and a few drivers were stuck in the back on that first morning…). The first night was actually supposed to be a calm, introductory bonding session but we took it way. too. far. I ended up rolling around in the mud with an Irish girl, teaching everyone a penguin dance I learned in girl guides when I was like 8 and trying to re-enact the dirty dancing lift like a wet noodle. It all ended with me spewing my life into the campsite pots and pans, and into various other containers around the tents. Great first impressions. I blame the goon.
All joking aside, I think the rain actually made the trip a bit better than if it had been blue skies and 30 degree weather the entire time. If it wasn’t raining, we wouldn’t have all spent so much time together under that one, singular roof in the whole campsite – letting us take the time to get to know each other that little bit more. As it turned out, we all seemed to have pretty much the same itinerary all the way up the east coast and found our paths crossing more than once as we made our way north. Some of the best pals I made in Australia were made sitting round the fire toasting marshmallows, and later – dancing on tables and jumping in puddles in the pouring rain. There’s a lot to be said about friendships that were founded getting legless in a washed out camp surrounded by dingoes in the middle of the jungle…
Surprise surprise, on the last day as we headed for the ferry, the sun came out in full force and wished us farewell as we headed back to the mainland to continue our east coast adventures. The next stop was a stopover in 1770 on the way to Airlie Beach for our Whitsundays sailing trip, or at least…that was the plan. Cyclone Nora unfortunately had other ideas and we found our trip cancelled at the last minute, forcing us to stay in Agnes Water (Town of 1770) much longer than expected. We actually ended up skipping Airlie Beach entirely, out of fear of getting stranded due to the increasing highway closures the whole way up the country. Of course it was disappointing to have our plans disrupted and miss out on the Whitsundays trip, but life happens. Cyclones happen. There’s no point throwing a tantrum about it, it just means you get to know a little more about the place you’re already in…
Now I don’t know if you’ve heard of Agnes Water, to be honest I’d be very surprised if you’d had. It’s not the kind of place you’d want to get stuck for 3 days in the pouring rain though I’ll tell you that for free. The whole town consists of a strip of about 10 boutique-y clothes shops, a Spar and a pharmacy. We were regulars at the local cafe after three days of breakfast, lunch and dinner (8 dollar meals!) – they must have been sad to see us leave – we probably paid their rent for the entire month between the three of us. In hindsight though, it probably was a welcome break from the madness. April was a month of non-stop fun and those 3 days chilling, surfing, taking selfies with the locals in the place where captain cook arrived in 1770 gave us time to get ourselves back on track and remind ourselves where we were and how far we’d already come – and to do three loads of laundry, did I mention I was rolling around in the mud?
I’ll leave this post here as it’s already veering towards being too long, but keep watching and waiting for the next one. Get ready for some sunshine, more island adventures and even more wild nights as I head further up towards Cairns to swim with the fishes in the deep blue.
Stay posted !