I guess I have finally gotten flack from enough people that I am writing my farewell Australia! post.
Yes, I have been back from Australia for a little while now, but as everyone has been saying over and over to me, my blog has kind of been left hanging without a proper goodbye. I think I was putting it off for so long because I just didn’t want to say goodbye. So, rather than saying goodbye, this will instead be a “see you later” post. That’s right, I have every intention of going back to Australia one day. I don’t think that I would do it exactly the same way (I know a few hostels that I would not step foot in again) but I do want to visit all the friendly people I met who live in Australia. I would also love to do the Heading Bush desert tour again. Despite the obnoxious flies, the blood-sucking mosquitoes, and the biting ants – that was one of the highlights of my entire trip.
I’d also really like to take someone with me the next time I travel to Australia so I can experience everything with someone. Start saving now, guys!
Being back in the States, the first thing I was able to appreciate was the fact that I no longer had to inwardly cringe when I met someone new. I wouldn’t have to wonder whether they would judge me automatically because I was an American. This country is full of ’em!
I also really like being around people I know and love again, and not worrying about the day in the near future that I would have to say goodbye. They ain’t going anywhere! Not if I can help it!
As far as things I miss – I do miss the excitement of seeing something new every day, and experiencing things that I had previously only read or dreamed about. I also miss meeting so many interesting people from so many different countries. I learned more about the world while traveling in Australia for three months than I did in three years of world history while in high school and college.
At the moment, I am trying to find myself a job in my dream industry – writing or any form of the arts really. I do get a kick out of video editing. I haven’t had much luck yet, but I am trying different things like reading advice columns and career books and trying to get a professional network together. Eventually, I’ll get to where I want to be. With a little luck, I’ll be able to finance more little trips around the world and still live a comfortable lifestyle!
Now the question still remains as to what I’m going to do with this website. I’m certainly going to keep this Australia stuff up, as I’m sure I’ll want to look back at it time and time again. If I’m lucky, I’ll one day soon be doing some more traveling and I can start my travelingkaren part II blog!
So I’ll end this now not saying goodbye, but see you later. I hope you all enjoyed reading as much as I enjoyed writing!
Just a quick note to let everyone know that I am safe and made it home OK… but our internet connection at home has been out since before I came home… I am at my sisters house now so I don’t have time to write a concluding post… but be prepared for one… if our internet is ever fixed!
Hello friends! This will likely be my last post before I head back to the States. Also, I was incorrect when I said that my flight would come in on Wednesday, it is coming in on Thursday. So mark your calenders accordingly!
I know I quickly complained about my stay at Byron Bay on my last post – but the trip wasn’t a total washout. It did rain while I was there. A lot. Every day. There were bucketfuls and bucketfuls of rain pouring down from the sky at all hours of the day and night. There were a few short breaks between downpours, but the sky always looked like it was threatening to open up again at any second. And to prove my point as to how horrible the weather was – I actually bought an umbrella. On my last week in Australia. Up until then, I had gone through my entire three month vacation without ever needing one. Now my only options were to buy an umbrella, be constantly soaked, or stay inside until I head home.
The hostel I stayed at this time while in Byron Bay was called “the Arts Factory Lodge”. It was such a cool and funky place – despite it’s downfall that it housed a backpack thief. It did have the problem of being loud at night because of all the drunk 18 or so year olds, but I had gotten used to this by now.
When I booked my stay here, it had seemed like it was more accommodating to people who were looking for a nice little retreat away from the party scene as they offered yoga classes and didgeridoo lessons and had a spa out back. They also had fire-twirling lessons and horseback riding through the beach. Maybe this was just the busier season for spring-breaker types. Though I guess I can’t really blame them for partying right outside my window until four in the morning. With all the rain we’ve been getting, it’s not like there are many other places to go!
I did really like this place. They had cool off-beat paintings all over their walls, the bathrooms were filthy but I’d seen way worse, the pool was clean and had a jacuzzi in the middle of it. But I do think that if I was there with someone I knew I would have enjoyed my time there even more.
My absolute favorite part about my Arts Factory stay was when a group of Tibetan refugee monks were visiting for two weeks (starting the day that I came!). Every day they had different programs you could go to for free (donations gladly accepted).
They had meditation each day in the morning, you could listen to talks by the monks and ask them questions about what their way of life is like, they had special ceremonies and speeches given by the monks, and for the young and young at heart each day also had an arts and crafts hour where you could make things like compassion flowers or prayer flags.
The first monk event that I went to was the “happy hour talk” where you could ask the monk questions. I just went to observe, because I didn’t think I knew enough about monks and the Buddhist religion to ask intelligent questions. I decided to follow the “better to be silent and have people suspect that you are a fool, than to speak and remove all doubts” rule.
Each program was set up in a little room with seats and one or more monks and a translator would join us. The monk would speak in his language (I think it’s Tibetan? I don’t remember the language that they speak in Tibet) and the translator would relay to us in English what was just said.
I learned a lot during the hour. Did you know that girls could be monks? I had always thought that they were all males, and I believe when I’ve seen images of monks they have always been male. The female monks don’t live in monasteries, they live in nunneries instead, and they do have to shave their heads as well. They don’t do the chanting that the male monks do, but they do things like yoga instead – which the men do not do (another thing I never realized). Other than those few differences they do the same things as the male monks, such as trying to help mankind and always striving towards enlightenment.
I also learned that the middle children in Tibetan families are generally the ones chosen to be monks. It is the middle children that the parents send off to monasteries and nunneries. It is thought of as a great honor for the children, but I’m sure it must be difficult for them because they can’t do the things that other children do. Their whole life they are busy training to be a monk – or monkette. Ok, the females are not called monkettes, but that does remind me of a joke that the translator made during one of the talks. “What do you call a girl monk?” “A Chick-Monk!”
But I digress. Back to my story. The children who are chosen to be monks are not forced to remain in that position against their will. If they ever – at any point of their life – decide that they don’t want to continue to be a monk, they are free to leave with no stigma against those who decide to leave. Instead, they are more respected because they had tried something that a lot of people never do. A case in point – the translator told us that at one time in his life, he too was a monk… but then he discovered girls, or rather, they discovered him. At that point he decided it was just not right for him anymore.
We also learned that one of the monks we were speaking to had not seen his family since he fled Tibet to India about 25 years ago. He recently learned that his mother had died, and he was very sad because he had wanted to see her before she died – but it didn’t work out that way. We learned that he does not regret not having a family of his own, (i.e. a wife and children) because he never knew what that would have been like in the first place, so he can’t miss something that he has never known. He said that because this question was asked of him so often, he must assume that it is something that is wonderful and should be missed, but because he doesn’t know it, he doesn’t miss it.
I did also go to one of the meditation hours to see what it was like. I am not very good at keeping my mind blank or focusing on only one subject however. My mind is constantly racing with thought after thought. The focus of our meditation hour was being happy. The first thing they had us do for 10 minutes was just repeat to ourselves in our head “life is good” over and over again. They said that the way to train your mind to be happy is to not allow the bad thoughts to overtake the good. If you are thinking “life is good” and suddenly a thought comes in “oh but my backpack was stolen and the rain is terrible and where is my flower headband anyway?” you need to just push those bad thoughts to the side and continue thinking “life is good”. They said that if you start to think that all bad things happen for a reason, such as to teach you a lesson of some kind, then you will stop feeling sorry for yourself or your situation and will just be happy to be alive and happy for all the good things that you do have. It was a really beautiful philosophy and a way of thinking that I probably needed at this time in my trip. A kind of “stop feeling sorry for yourself” And after the meditation I just happened to look down and realized I was wearing my “Life is Good” tee-shirt. If that’s not a sign, I don’t know what is!
The last monk event that I went to was a cleansing ceremony. I love to see religious ceremonies from different cultures like the Aboriginal one I was part of on the Heading Bush tour. Although I guess it isn’t exactly a religious ceremony, a woman I was talking to at one of the meetings told me that Buddhism is not really a religion, but more of a way of life.
At the ceremony all of the monks were all there along with the translator and they started it out by telling us that for the ceremony to be effective, we had to believe it will be effective. They said that even though Buddhists believe that you should never have blind faith and you should only believe what has been proven to you, for this ceremony to work you have to actually think that it will work to let your brain accept that it will work. They really believe in the power of the mind to heal.
Then they told us to imagine that they are not old monks in robes, but they are actually the beautiful healing goddess, and that we should picture them as the goddess as best as we could. They pointed out a bowl in the front of the room which had two figures in it, a man and a woman. They said that those figures represent everything that might be wrong with us, or any problems that we might be having. They next passed around pieces of dough – one for each of us. They said that the dough pieces were to be rubbed all over ourselves, and we were to imagine that all of our problems were getting stuck on the dough. As we rubbed, the problems would be removed from us and put into the dough. Then a monk walked up to each of us with the bowl and we placed the dough into it. Next, another monk came by with a bit of water which he poured into our hands cupped hands. We were supposed to taste the water and then use it to rub all over ourselves. The water was meant to represent the purifying of ourselves. Now that our problems were removed an on the dough, the water would purify our newly clean selves. They then came by again with a pitcher of water and the bowl. They poured the water from the pitcher over our heads and into the bowl so that any remaining doubts or issues could be washed away into the bowl. The lead monk then said that if we had any remaining doubts as to whether our problems would be gone, he would wave the peacock feather in his hand as he chanted some words, and that would blow the last of the problems away. After the chant, one of the monks removed the bowl from the room. They said that now that the bowl was gone, our problems would all be gone with that bowl, and we would never see them again. When the monk returned, the bowl was empty of all our problems.
Finally, the lead monk had each of us come up to him one at a time. He poured more water was poured into our cupped hands which we had to drink, and he handed us a packet of little herb powder pills. He said that if you ever need a reminder of the things that were said in this ceremony, you could just to dissolve a pill in water and drink it, and you can be back on track with knowing that the problems you might have are only skin deep. I am assuming that the herbs in the pills have the same flavor as the water that we drank from the pitcher (which had a distinctively herbal taste) so that when you drink it, it would bring back the memory of the ceremony. That is just science! I have often experienced times when I smell something that I associate with a particular place or person, the memories always flood in.
The monk also gave us a piece of red string which would serve to remind us of the ceremony. We each brought the string over to another monk who would tie it around our wrist using a special “monk knot” that will never come out. Actually, that was the translator kidding with us. It was just a regular knot.
I really enjoyed the monk ceremony, even more than I did the Aboriginal one. I had the distinct feeling from the Aboriginal one that the guy who was doing the ceremony didn’t really want to do it, and that he was doing it just for the money that I’m sure he was getting paid by Heading Bush. Also, I didn’t say this before but that Aboriginal man seemed a little too fond of all the ladies in my opinion. He was constantly talking about how beautiful they are and hugging them as much as he could. The monks on the other hand really seemed to take it seriously, and were doing it for just donations. It was lovely.
I’m sorry that my description for this ceremony wasn’t as detailed as it was for the Aboriginal one, but I didn’t take any notes this time, and I didn’t take any pictures because I thought it would be rude to have cameras flashing while the monks were talking. The Aboriginal one was outdoors so no flash was necessary.
Throughout the two weeks, the Monks were also creating a sand art mandala. They were pouring the sand by hand from little straws, and definitely needed to have a steady hand. At the end of the two weeks they planned to destroy the work of art by blowing the sand away – to show you that nothing is permanent in the world.
I was kind of sorry that I wasn’t going to be around longer now, I really wanted to listen to a few more of the talks that the monks were giving and to see the finished sand mandala. But, at least I did get the chance to see some of them. I was surprised that more people from my hostel didn’t show up to the talks – how often will you ever have the chance to see actual refugee monks from Tibet, monks who see the Dali Lama on a regular basis?
While at the Arts Factory, I decided to get a massage at the spa because it was cheap, I didn’t have to tip the masseuse, and my shoulders had been killing me lately. When I booked the massage, I also got a free day trip into Nimbin for Sunday, which was perfect because I really wanted to go back to that market – it had so many great products!
I had my massage (at times I swear the woman was purposefully trying to hurt me… but that is another story) and while the massage helped my shoulders a little bit, she said that the muscles in my shoulders and upper back are terribly tight and extremely knotted up and that she couldn’t get them all out in just one session. She suggested that when I get back to the States I should consider having regular massages. Maybe in my dreams!
The next day was Sunday and I went into Nimbin. I was told when I signed up that the market would still go on even if it was raining, but when we got there our bus driver passed right by the town that the market was held in and did not stop. We were told that the market was closed due to rain (!!!!) Instead, we went to see this very… interesting guy who sincerely enjoyed talking about the chaos theory. We went in his house and saw that he had dolls filling every room (which he called his art):
And trash over flowing in his yard (he called it “junk art”). He also had a wall with pictures of all of the gods and religious characters known to man – besides Mohammed – he said he couldn’t find an image.
It was an entertaining trip, but I was still disappointed about the market. We ended the Nimbin tour by going for a walk through this guys woods. Because of all the rain we had been getting we were forced to walk through some partially submerged terrain.
When we got back onto dry land, a lot of us were horrified to see that we were covered with leeches. YES! DISGUSTING, SLIMY, BLOODSUCKING LEECHES! I had three just on my ankles. These leeches were tiny, little, thin leeches that you might easily mistake for a twig so people were still finding them for the next hours to come. On the bus ride home I kept thinking I felt something on my feet, but when I inspected them I would find nothing. Later that night, I looked down at my feet and saw that the area between my pinky toe and the next one was covered with blood. It seems that I had missed one, but it had since fallen off as it probably got it’s fill of me. Dang leeches.
When I got back into the hostel I remembered that I had left my book in the laundry room just a few hours ago (the Nimbin trip was only a few hours long). I went to go get it, and it was gone. Can you believe the nerve of these people? Not only is this hostel full of backpack thieves, it is also full of book thieves. It’s not like the book was expensive. I had gotten Jane Eyre for 50 cents at a second hand book shop. I was just really enjoying the book and was looking forward to seeing what would happen to Jane next… but now I can’t. Because it’s gone. Gone into the hands of some punk that is probably just going to rip the pages out and use them as cigarette papers anyway. Sigh.
So now I am back in Sydney. Back in the noisy, dirty city. But, in a few hours, I will be in the air, and in 30 short hours later I will be back in the States! This makes me happy. I miss everyone so much!
Sorry, no real update today, just a quick post to let you know that I am still at Byron Bay and I am perfectly fine.
I’m feeling a little crabby so I don’t much feel much like updating the blog. It has rained every single day since I’ve been in Byron Bay, and not just rained, but poured. It is supposed to just do more of the same for the rest of the time that I am in Australia. So I am constantly cold and wet – not a fun time!
I could talk about the fact that the refugee Tibetan monks are here at my hostel giving talks and such, but I don’t want to. But really folks, I’ll tell you all about it later. Right now I’m cold, I’m wet, and I’m annoyed that the computer is so slow so I’m going to go drink some hot cocoa and warm up.
And now for the long awaited post on my visit to the Australia Zoo! Are you ready for this?
I woke up at about 7:30 to get ready to catch the (free) 8:30 bus to the Australia Zoo. It was a huge double-decker bus, completely full of people excited to visit Steve Irwin’s former home. It took us about 50 minutes to get to the zoo, and during the ride they played an episode of the Crocodile Hunter to keep us entertained.
When we finally arrived, the bus driver gave us a run through of what we could expect to see while we were there. He mentioned that if we were lucky, we might even get to see a Tasmanian Tiger, which he said was “extremely rare and endangered” because of a facial disease. Now, if I had never visited Tasmania I might have thought “Oh cool! A Tasmanian Tiger! I don’t know what that is, but I can’t wait to see one!” However, visiting Tasmania left me a bit more informed on their wildlife. While I was there I learned that Tasmanian tigers either (1) have never existed or (2) have long been extinct. And I suppose we should add a (3) have not been seen for so many years that they are thought to be extinct. I can’t imagine that he was completely lying to us. Most likely what he meant to say was Tasmanian Devil (which are dying out because of the facial cancer). I’m not sure if anyone else caught his faux pas, or if were even paying attention to his speech. It’s also possible this was his “haze the tourists” gag to see how many people would ask where the Tasmanian tigers are.
When we were released and we paid our way into the zoo we were all greeted by Steve and his family:
My immediate impression of the zoo was quite favorable. It didn’t look like your typical zoo. Nothing with in it looked like a cage. The animal enclosures were huge and all looked very natural. The workers at the zoo were all wearing the signature Steve Irwin outfit – khaki shorts and a khaki top.
The first thing I checked out was the alligator pit. Here is one cute little guy named “Fang 1”. I’m not sure where he got that name as he had way more fangs than just one.
There were six separate pits in the Alligator enclosure, each with either one or two (if it had a mate) alligators in them. These alligators looked much happier than that sad little crocodile I saw in Alice Springs living in a dirty, tiny aquarium.
Next I joined a large crowd of tourists waiting for the chance to feed an elephant. The elephants were fed every morning at 11:30. Anyone could feed them for no charge, unless you decided to buy the photo. I waited patiently on the line and when it was my turn, I fed my large friend a delectable piece of carrot. He grabbed it with his trunk pretty quickly, but he was very gentle as well. His trunk had a wet feeling to it, almost like someone with wet hands was trying to take something from me. Of course I had to buy the picture. I might never get the opportunity to feed an elephant again, so I wanted to remember it! It was under 10 dollars so it certainly wouldn’t break the bank.
After feeding the elephant I passed by a small group of Koalas. The koalas were placed in multiple places throughout the zoo, and there was one enclosure where you could walk through and check them out up close – you just couldn’t touch them.
This is my favorite koala picture. His eyes are open! It was hard to find a koala who wasn’t sleeping.
I also got a video of one of them eating. Try and tell me this isn’t adorable!
I walked by the giant tortoise enclosure while the workers were feeding them. These guys are well known for being slow, but when they saw that food they ran over to it pretty quick! A woman was there talking about the tortoises as they ate, and invited anyone to make an appointment to come into the tortoise enclosure if we really liked turtles. This seemed to be an available extra for many of the animals. I often saw random people in the enclosures of the (non dangerous) animal and the animals seemed perfectly content to have them there.
Soon after I noticed that people were starting to crowd around a gated area. I went over to see what was going on and saw that the workers were taking the tigers (not Tasmanian tigers) out for a walk. That is definitely something you wouldn’t see in an American zoo!
The animals in this zoo almost seemed like they were all pets. It wasn’t uncommon to see the workers sitting in enclosures of even the dangerous animals – like the tiger cage – and the animals were fine with it. I would hope this means that the animals are all happy and well taken care of. Normally I wouldn’t think it was a good idea to have wild animals be so tame towards humans, but I guess it is nice for the ones who are going to be in captivity for the rest of their lives. This way they get more attention and become used to having tourists gawk at them all the time.
Next I found the dingos. I only managed to see one at a distance, the others were hiding away from prying eyes. That was another big plus for the Australian zoo – every one of the animals had somewhere to go if they felt like being away from the eyes of tourists. Some zoos that I have been to give the animals no choice but to be visible at all times, which can cause extreme stress. The dingos look just like dogs, don’t they? It was strange to see a dog in a zoo!
My next agenda was to find the cassowaries. Cassowaries are considered to be the most dangerous birds in the world. They are normally found in rain forests, though they are pretty rare in the Australian rainforests and it is not very often that you’d see one in the wild. But if you do happen to see one in the wild… stay far away from it. These birds have razor sharp claws and could kill you in seconds. They also have a sharp plate on the top of their head for slicing through the rain forest – or your neck. They are bad little (big) birds. I recently had heard a story of a young guy who was killed by a cassowary because he was teasing it – not a smart thing to do. I did see one in the Sydney zoo, but it was in a small glass enclosure with nowhere to hide. Here the enclosure was much more appropriate – a huge forested area with plenty of places for them to remain out of sight. I didn’t see any at first as they were all hiding in the thicker areas of their enclosure, but I did see something stealing their food!
These little guys were all over the zoo as well, running around freely. They are kind of cute, aren’t they?
I did finally see a cassowary when it was coming out to eat. You wouldn’t want to meet up with one of these guys in a dark alley!
And of course, a video for your viewing pleasure:
Next it was the croc enclosure. Wow! These suckers were enormous! Too bad I couldn’t see someone standing next to it for scale. But this was the one enclosure where I never saw a worker hanging around inside it. Even Australians are afraid of crocodiles.
Throughout the zoo I would see cute little Steve Irwin sculptures. This one made me laugh so I had to take a picture of it. It was in front of one of the kiddie rides:
Now who wouldn’t want a statue of a crocodile carrying Steve Irwin like a baby in their living room? Nobody, that’s who!
Next up was the snakes. The snake enclosures looked kind of small in my opinion, but they were still bigger than the ones at the Sydney zoo. It seems to be the fate for snakes in zoos. They always end up in the smallest areas. At least they did a good job with making the enclosures look like where the snake would be living in the wild:
Here is a full view of the size of one of the enclosures:
Normally the snakes enclosures I had seen would be about half the size they were here or even smaller, so I guess I can’t really fault them much:
When I left the snakes house I immediately saw the wombat enclosure. Every single one of them were sleeping. I was hoping to see one wake up and walk around but no such luck. So all I have for now is a picture of a sleeping wombat:
Then I had a stroke of luck! I found out that what I had thought was the wombat enclosure was actually only their sleeping quarters. Outside there was had a large for them to frolic around and dig. Here is one of the wide awake wombats. I thought they looked a little bit like a cross between a gopher and a bear (yeesh, can you imagine that relationship?):
Next I visited the bird aviary. It was a huge aviary, big enough that I didn’t even see all that many birds, except for a few of the smaller ones:
There was one worker that was walking around the aviary with a cockatoo on her wrist. As people walked by he said “hello”, and “hello pretty boy” and “hello pretty girl”. She asked him to say “hello pretty girl” to me, but he said “hello pretty boy” instead. I’m pretty sure I was just insulted by a bird. He also did a trick:
After the aviary, I was off to Roo Heaven!
This was my favorite part of the zoo. You walked into the enclosure and it was like being in a huge park full of kangaroos. There were kids playing in the sand while kangaroos lazily watched them from inches away. Some people were feeding the roos, and others were just sitting next to them:
Don’t worry about the kangaroos though – even these kangaroos had an area they could go to escape the humans if they didn’t feel like being social.
Next up: The elephants!
I only saw three elephants in the enclosure, and it looked like a mommy, a daddy, and a baby elephant. They snubbed us at first:
But when the keepers entered the enclosure, the elephants went right up to them. What do you suppose they were all gabbing about? I’d like to think they were discussing their menu for that night.
Here are a couple of the elephants taking a drink:
And just because I like you, another video!
I loved the fact that at the entrance/exit of the elephant enclosure, they had a statue of Ganesh, the Hindu Elephant God:
Some people left him offerings of flowers and money:
After paying my respects to Ganesh, I headed off to see the tigers in their enclosure. They were too far away for me to get a good picture of them from the outside area:
You did have a better view at the glass paneled area, but because you are behind glass pictures do not turn out all that terrifically so I won’t post one here.
I left the India portion of the zoo (the area with the tigers and elephants and Ganesh was sectioned off like a different country) and I must say I was impressed with how they built that section of the zoo. They took time with the sculptures and the flowers, and put effort in making it feel like you were at a zoo in India.
Now on to the Emus! I wasn’t that interested in seeing the emus, as I had already seen plenty of them in the wild, but I caught this picture and wanted to share. This was an area of the enclosure where the emus could have some privacy. The fence was covered with burlap so no one could see in and the emus couldn’t see out – but this little guy was curious as to who was out there!
I did go to the Tasmanian devil enclosure, but I didn’t see any Tasmanian devils. Luckily I had already seen them in Tasmania. And no, I did not see any Tasmanian tigers either.
Next up was the echindas, another one of Australia’s strange native creatures. They almost look like porcupines.
They walk strangely as well. And here is video proof:
As I was walking back towards the front of the park I had to walk through the kangaroo territory again. I’m glad I did! This time I saw a beautiful mostly white kangaroo. I can’t imagine kangaroos sporting these colorings would last very long in the wild.
I was starving at this point of my visit, so I had lunch in the food court. I had what they called an “American” burger. Those burgers were pretty much the same except they called ketchup “ketchup” as opposed to “tomato sauce” and they didn’t try to sneak a beet on my burger instead of a tomato.
I was joined for lunch by another bird – he was more welcome than the bird I met during my snorkeling tour because this one didn’t try to steal my food.
And right before I left the zoo, I decided I wanted to hold a koala. I missed out at the Sydney zoo, so I figured I would take my shot here. He was as adorable as could be, but his nails were very sharp, and boy do those things smell!
So, that was the end of my Australian Zoo adventure. As I was leaving the zoo, I saw this banner:
I had heard from a few people that they thought it seemed like the Australia Zoo had been changed into a memorial to Steve. I guess I didn’t notice it too much, although I suppose I also hadn’t ever seen the zoo prior to his death. All of the statues of Steve and his family were probably only added after he died.
So I was now finished with the Australia zoo, and I got back onto the bus and headed back to Noosa.
Oh! I almost forgot to mention: On my walk around the zoo, I saw yet another person that I had met before. He was an Irish guy who once again I couldn’t for the life of me remember where I knew him. He wasn’t one of the Irish brothers I had met on the Frasier Island trip. When before that had I met an Irish guy? As soon as he left I remembered – he was on my rafting trip! My memory is awful.
To everyone who doesn’t know this yet, today I decided to cut my Australian vacation a little short. I will be leaving 10 days earlier than originally planned, for a few of reasons:
I am not really doing anything. I’m currently in Byron Bay, which is pretty expensive. So I’m mostly just spending money on food and entertainment and accommodation – I have no more trips planned. I’d rather save a little bit of money for when I am back in the states.
I am missing everyone greatly
I’m a bit bored here. I don’t really have anyone to hang out with, everyone at this hostel seems to have their own little cliques and groups, and they all seem to be only concerned with getting drunk all the time. I really don’t feel like spending all that money to go out every night. It’s kind of like a college atmosphere here – I’m sure I’d have a blast five to ten years ago! I’m an old lady sometimes, I admit that.
I am tired of traveling, and I just feel like being home among those who love me.
I think adding to these reasons would be that I have had such bad luck in the last week. I lost my watch, my camera broke, and I also lost my pretty flower hair band that I had just bought!
Then I have that problem with the bed bugs at my last hostel. I was really hoping I would be able to leave Australia without ever having to experience bed bugs, but no. The reception lady did say “I don’t think it is bed bugs” but as of now I am pretty sure they were. I noticed a line of red bites on my shin that definitely looked like them. To be safe regardless of whether they were or were not, when I got to the hostel I am at now in Byron Bay, I washed all of my things, including my backpack and my suitcase. Which brings me to the next bad thing that happened.
Someone stole my backpack! It was empty, as I had left it in the laundry room to dry overnight, and when I went back to get it the next morning, it was gone. Maybe I shouldn’t have left it there overnight, but I didn’t want to bring it into the room when it was wet. Up until now I had never had an issue with things getting stolen from me in Australia. Maybe I have been too trusting. Why on earth would someone steal a backpack though? Oh wait, I’m in a hostel full of backpackers.
Anyhow, I am going to go now, but I’ll be back in the States on Wednesday!
This post will be just a quick one for your Karen fix before I tell you all about the zoo.
I arrived in Noosa a couple of days ago, and I didn’t really do much in the actual city of Noosa because my hostel (called Dolphins Beach House) is about a three-hour walk away. I was picked up when I got there by their courtesy shuttle so at least I didn’t have to walk, but straight from the beginning I wasn’t really thrilled with the hostel. The people weren’t rude exactly, it was more like they just wouldn’t do anything extra for you, especially if it was anything that might inconvenience them in the slightest. For example, when I first got there I asked “do you have laundry machines?” and they said “yes.” That was it. They didn’t tell me where it was or how much they were (the dryer was a dollar per five minutes by the way). Also, any time I went to ask them a question, they had an attitude like it was such an inconvenience to have to answer my question.
The hostel itself was OK, but it seemed a little dirty and a bit run-down. It was in a suburban area so it wasn’t noisy or anything like that, but if I had known that it was so far away from the town (where I can DO things) I probably would have chosen another place. The only reason I booked at Dophins Beach House was because this was the place my travel agent had highly recommended. They marketed it as a peaceful escape from city life. The hostel did have interesting little paintings and sculptures throughout, which could have made it seem nicer if it was better maintained.
At least they did have ten shuttles running to and from the town throughout the day, but I really like the freedom of choosing when to go somewhere and when to leave it – which is why I normally prefer places I can walk to.
Another thing that irked me about the place was the fact that all over the rooms and in the common area there were little signs posted with messages from the staff to us that made me feel like they didn’t really think much of our intelligence. For example, there were three signs around each light. The first one would say “please save the planet and turn off the light” underneath that one would say “Shut off the light when you are done with it” and one on the bottom would say “It’s simple! Flick off the bloody switch!”. There were multiple signs around the fridge telling us to keep clean and put our food back in the fridge or the cockroaches will come, and signs saying “It makes us very cranky having to wake you guys up at 9:30 to get you to check out! blah blah blah blah…” Also, there was a sign that said “starting in January, everyone is only allowed to stay a maximum of one week” so I guess they get sick of people after that.
Maybe they’ve had problems in the past with a couple of the patrons, but the signs and attitudes made me feel less valued and almost as if they were treating us like children. Maybe I am being overly-sensitive, but I didn’t like it. Some of the signs were friendly little reminders, but some were downright rude.
From the computer area, I would overhear conversations of the staff talking amongst themselves, and they would be badmouthing people that they had just gotten off the phone with. Speaking of the computers, the hours of being able to use them were terrible! The reception closes at 8, and that means you must be off the computers at 8. And the night before last I overheard them saying that they really wanted to leave, so they decided amongst each other to close the office early. “Sorry guys, we are closing 15 minutes early, so you have 10 more minutes on the computer!” We are paying for the privilege of staying at their hostel, I just wish they were a bit more accommodating to their guests.
I feel as though this entire post is a complaint-fest, so I apologize! Maybe it is just unfortunate for Dolphins that I just came from Fraser Island where my bad luck forced me to spend a lot more money than I thought I would have to that week so I am probably being a bit more critical than I would normally be. I am just glad to be leaving today and heading back to Byron Bay, my favorite city in Australia so far. And this will pretty much be my last stop before going home!
One more thing about the hostel that I am staying at before I end the post. I woke up night before last with three bites on my wrist and a couple on my arm. This morning I saw quite a few bites on my leg. I don’t know for sure what bedbug bites look like, but I have heard so many horror stories that I freaked out a little when I saw them. Mosquito bites I can live with, but if bedbugs were sucking my blood while I was asleep? That would really skeeve me out. I brought it to the attention of the manager, and she looked at my bites told me that they didn’t look like the bedbug bites, which she said tend to bite in a straight line all in one area of your body. She did say that she would check them out anyway just in case. I hoped beyond hopes that she was right and they were just mosquito bites but as soon as I get to my next hostel I am giving all my things a good wash. They do kind of look like mosquito bites, so I will just hope for the best.
And now I must say goodbye until my next post. Australia Zoo will be coming soon!
Now is the moment you have been waiting for! Here is my post about Fraser Island.
My time on Fraser Island was bitter-sweet. I had some amazingly great times, and I had some not-so-great times. The island itself (which I was told was one of the natural wonders) was everything I had been promised. I also met some terrific people on this trip. It was only towards the end when I had a couple of misfortunes that prevented this from being a perfect trip. Even the luck of the Irish couldn’t help me. That will make more sense as you read on. But let me start from the beginning…
Fraser Island is an incredible place for many reasons. First of all, it is the largest all-sand island in the world. The ‘all sand’ part is what makes it so incredible. Most islands have something underneath the sand, like rock or dirt. This island truly is just sand. If you were to dig straight down, the sand would go down to 600 meters below sea level. All the vegetation on the island (including the rainforests) are just growing on the sand. This island is the only place in the world where a rainforest grows on sand dunes.
The plants and trees get all of their nutrition from the dead plant matter or leaf litter that falls to the ground. At one time, this island was used for logging, but when it was discovered how scientifically important it was they halted the logging – and timber now has not been collected from the island since 1991. In 1992 it was listed as a World Heritage site, and now the only money the island brings in is from tourism.
Fraser Island has over 50 freshwater lakes and close to 80 streams and creaks that run throughout. We were able to swim in a few of them, but I’ll talk about that and the bad luck attributed to that later in this post. (Ooooh, is that foreshadowing?)
Now on to my actual trip. The bus picked me up at about 7:40 am this morning. It was nice to sleep in for once! After everyone had been collected we headed towards the ferry that would take us to the island. There were about 16 of us on this trip, and most people came in groups. It was just myself and one other girl who were traveling alone.
The bus boarded the ferry and we settled in for a 50 minute boat ride to the island. You will all be very happy to know that I did not get seasick on the ferry. It may be that big boats are OK, but the little ones, not so good.
When we arrived to the island the bus headed straight into the rainforest. As we drove along, our tour guide (Peter) told us a bit about the vegetation, the rainforest, and the island itself. I was extremely amused with the way he spoke. He had a real “pilot” quality to his voice and the say he talked – “We plan to be flying at approximately 20,000 feet. We are expecting a bit of rain and turbulence so be sure you buckle up!” He certainly knew his stuff though.
After a short drive, we were able to get off the bus and go for a walk through the rainforest so we could see the flora up close and personal. This also gave us a chance to get to know each other outside of the bus. We all introduced ourselves and told each other where we were from. As was the norm for these tours, we were a pretty varied group. There were a couple of other people from America this time (NYC) and a whole group of girls from Norway. There were also a couple of Dutch girls, a Swiss German family (their child was adorable and couldn’t have been much older than two or three), a German couple, one English girl and two Irish carpenter brothers. I ended up spending most of my time with the English girl – who was the other single traveler – and the Irish brothers. They were all so much fun, and hilarious! I love the Irish and English sense of humor – despite the fact that they made it clear to me that they don’t think American jokes are very funny.
After a short walk through the rainforest and many run-ins with spiders (I think I saw more spiders in the two days on Fraser Island than I did in my entire time in Australia) we got back into the bus and set off for our next stop – Eli Creek. Along the way we met up with a small airplane pilot who offered to take us for a flight over the island for a small fee. He promised us that it would be an incredible experience – we would be able to take off from the beach and we’d see parts of the island that you’d only see from the air. He also said that we’d be very likely to see sharks or large fish in the water. I don’t normally do things like this because I never feel like it is worth the money – but this time I was convinced. I figured that since I didn’t do the helicopter ride over the Twelve Apostles I should do something like it, and I also really wanted the chance to see the sharks and other sea life from the air.
We got on board (it was myself, the captain, my Irish and English friends, and two other people) and we took off, as promised, from the beach. That was a neat experience – watching the ocean get smaller and smaller as we got further and further into the sky.
Our shadow in the water:
I really enjoyed the tour from the ocean. We did see a lot from the sky that we never would have seen on land.
The below picture was my favorite, it was a lake appropriately named ‘butterfly lake’:
And a shipwreck from the sky. We’ll be seeing this one up close later on.
The ride lasted about 10-15 minutes before we descended. I enjoyed the flight, but I couldn’t help but be disappointed that we didn’t see any sharks or large fish from the sky. That was the selling point for me, so I couldn’t help but feel a little cheated.
Here is one more picture of the captain and I!
After saying goodbye to the captain and the plane, the six of us walked to Eli Creek. This stream had perhaps the clearest water I have ever seen in a creek. The water in the stream was running swiftly, but it was completely silent because it was moving through sand instead of rocks.
We waded through the creek – which was very shallow at the beginning but as you can see from the picture, it got deeper as we moved on. And me without a swimsuit on! The shallow:
And the deep! It did get up to my thighs but I didn’t get that picture:
Wading through the creek in the rainforest made me feel a bit like Indiana Jones wading through the Amazon river.
Next we had lunch at a resort-kitchen. It was buffet-style eating – chicken, salad, lunch meats, etc – low-key, but delicious. We stayed for about an hour before we were back on the bus to our next stop, the Maheno shipwreck (which was the same ship we saw from the air).
The ship was at one time a ‘luxury cruiser’ built in 1905. In 1935, it was sold to Japan for scrap metal but ended up being caught in up in a cyclone on the way, and washed ashore at Fraser Island. Now, it is just one of the many interesting things that people come to look at on their trip to the island.
Our next destination was to a lookout over the ocean called Indian Head, named that because when Captain Cook first discovered it he saw Aboriginals there – and he thought they were a lot like the American Indians. At Indian Head we were hoping to be lucky enough to see sharks, large fish, turtles… etc. It was a beautiful view, but we were not lucky enough to see anything other than schools of small fish and the marine birds that were eating them.
There was still a chance that we might at least see some turtles when we visited Lake Mackenzie, a lake known for being an extremely clear and beautiful. I asked Peter if that was a possibility. “Oh, we aren’t going to Lake Mackenzie, we don’t have a license for that. We’re going to another, similar lake, Lake Birrabeen.” Whaaaa? I was again slightly disappointed. I had thought (and I seem to remember that my travel agent telling me) that we would be seeing Lake Mackenzie. After all, it was the most famous lake in Fraser Island! I was said that we were missing it – but Peter told us that because of how popular it is, not everyone can have a license to visit it or the lake would end up being destroyed by so many tourists. He assured us that the one we would be going to was just as nice, just not quite as popular.
We were at the lookout for a while, and when it seemed that everyone was leaving I headed back down to the bus as well. About 15 minutes later a couple of people came back down from the lookout point, excited because they had seen a whale. This was the second time I missed something because I left too early! First the penguins on the Great Ocean Road tour, and now this!
We headed towards our camp for the night, with one more quick stop to an area called the ‘Coloured Sands’. They were beautiful and reminded me a little of the Ochre pits from my Heading Bush tour. There was one major difference though – these sands weren’t used by the Aboriginals to create body paint. How do I know? I asked!
I also found this: look familiar?
If you have ever had a pet bird it would! It’s a cuttle bone, which is put into bird cages so they can chew on them and trim their beaks or get their daily calcium. I never really thought about where they came from, but apparently they come from the sea!
We reached camp at about 4:30, and dinner wasn’t until 6. My Irish and English friends and I entertained ourselves by building domino tracks and card houses. For dinner, we had the choice of steak or fish (I had the fish) and we had baked potatoes with sour cream, salad, and garlic bread. The best part was, after we had finished we didn’t have to do any of our own dishes. The place was equipped with a dishwasher! Pure luxury. We were in good spirits after dinner and were talking and joking around when we were offered the chance to go on a night walk with one of the other tour groups to see if we could see some dingos or other night roaming creatures. In the first five minutes we did see one creature. Just mentioning the name of this little guy will send shivers down many Australian’s backs. It was a large cane toad.
For those who don’t know, cane toads were introduced into Australia back in 1935 to take care of a native species which was a problem, the cane beetle. However, these toads decided they didn’t want to eat the beetles, they wanted to eat other things instead. Since then, they have multiplied and damaged a lot of the eco-system in Australia. Plus, they’re ugly.
We kept walking along the beach looking for creatures and looking at the stars. However, the only other creatures we saw on the walk were a few clams and another smaller toad. I can’t blame the wildlife for not showing themselves though – we were a large and loud group, so I assume anything out there just ran off when they heard us coming.
When we got back from the walk, my friends and I stayed up talking a little longer and the Irish brothers tried scaring those who went to bed earlier with dingo noises (it didn’t work, no one knew what a dingo sounded like) until we finally went to bed in our nice big tents with warm cozy cots. A few of us resolved to wake up early to watch the sun rise over the beach, and I was determined to be one of them.
The next morning, I almost didn’t wake up to see the sunrise. My alarm had gone off but I pushed snooze and fell back asleep where I had a dream that I missed the sunrise by five minutes. I woke up again to a rooster crowing (it was actually one of the Irish brothers who wanted to wake me up) and we walked the 15 minute hike down to the beach together. During the walk, I off-handedly mentioned my dream about missing the sunrise by five minutes, and I guess I must look like a psychic because they got nervous and made me run! Of course, being my klutzy self in flip-flops, I fell a few times while running – but it was nice, soft sand, which was good cushioning! We made it to the beach before the sun had showed it’s bright shiny head.
We waited with anticipation… and waited… and waited. The sky got brighter and brighter, but no sun. We were trying to decide if maybe the sun had already risen and was behind one of the many clouds in the sky when it finally started to appear on the horizon. So we ran to the sunrise but ended up waiting for half an hour before it even rose. I fell for nothing! I did get some great shots though.
After the sun became too bright to stare at any more we walked back to our campsite to have breakfast – cereal, toast, and fresh fruit. Once again I marveled at the wonderful dishwasher that was sparing me from the torture of washing my own dishes. After we all had enough to eat we once again headed off on the road, eager for another day of fun.
Today we had just a few places to visit before we were going to meet our ferry at 4:30 to return to Hevey Bay. The first stop was a lake called Lake Wabby. This lake formed because of a depression in the sand deep enough to expose the water below the island. Because of the remote location of the lake we couldn’t drive right up to it. Instead, we had to park and walk 1.5 km over sand dunes to get there. Let’s just say that by the time we finished crossing what felt like the Sahara Desert:
We didn’t care how cold the water was, we all jumped right in! The water was deep in the center but it wasn’t very large. You could see the other side of the lake, so some of us (myself included) decided to swim to the opposite end of it.
I had my Casio camera with me (in it’s waterproof case) so it wasn’t very easy for me to swim the normal way while holding my camera. I backstroked and doggy-paddled for most of it. It was actually farther than it had seemed. I made it to the other side but I was exhausted by the time I got onto shore. Check out the view from the other end! I swam this entire way:
We stayed on the opposite side for about 20 minutes before it was time for us to get back on the bus for our next stop, so we swam back. Getting back seemed much easier than getting there. I can only assume that my arm muscles were getting more developed by the minute! We were at the other side in no time at all, congratulating ourselves on a job well done.
This, dear friends, is when the first tragic event of my Fraser Island trip took place. When I looked at my wrist to see how much time it took me to swim back, I saw… a naked wrist. My watch, which had been with me since day one in Australia, a gift from mom, my way of telling in an instant what time it was in both the US and Australia… it was gone forever. Lost somewhere on the bottom of Lake Wabby. This was very upsetting to me. I had really become attached to this watch and had really grown to depend on it. I wore it all the time! But now it was gone without a trace, just like that! I’m still trying come to terms with this loss. Maybe this is actually a good thing. For my last couple of weeks in Australia I wouldn’t be forced to live by the clock anymore. I still find myself looking at my wrist every now and then and feeling a twinge of sadness. My arm looks so empty now. But I guess now Fraser Island will always have something to remember me by.
We left the lake and went to the area we’d be eating our picnic lunch. Nothing spectacular happened here, but we were forced to eat in cages.
These were actually dingo lockers – places where you would run to hide if a dingo attacked the campsite. Ok, not really. They were the place to put your food and other items so the dingos wouldn’t be able to get at them.
Lunch was sandwich wraps (fajita type things again! What is it with Australia and Mexican food?) which I didn’t enjoy as much as I could have because I was still mourning my lost watch. I did get a little bit happier when I saw that we had shortbread cookies for dessert though.
After lunch, we went for another rainforest walk. We saw some eels swimming around in the crystal clear water of a creek, which were awesome to see, and we also saw a few large lizards climbing up the trees. It’s actually a wonder that the people in the back were able to see anything! A few of the girls up front would spot a lizard and they’d start screaming and jumping around and making a huge racket – not because they were afraid, but because they were excited to see it – and I would have thought the lizard would have ran away in terror before the people towards the end of the line saw it. Luckily it didn’t, so I have some video to show you:
Our final stop was at another lake, crystal clear Lake Birrabeen – our substitute for Lake Mackenzie. This lake was completely filled with only rainwater. There were no streams leading in or out of it. I wondered silently to myself if it was filled with leeches, as I had always heard that leeches are known to be found in places with standing water, but I forgot about that thought as soon as I saw how clear and beautiful the water was. It really was as clear as glass, and the sand was white and soft, and had the consistency of baby powder. We spent about an hour and a half swimming and playing in the lake before heading back to the ferry.
Because the water was so clear, I thought it might look cool to get an underwater picture of myself, but it was harder to get the right shot. I did, however, get a nice underwater video!
We were playing around, swimming, splashing, picture-taking, when suddenly we heard loud screams coming from the shallow end of the lake. Instinctively I looked around for sharks, crocs, barracudas or otherwise scary fish, but saw nothing. I looked back in the direction of the screaming and saw one of the Norwegian girls yelling and jumping up and down in the water. I heard the word ‘leech’. Uh oh! We went over to where she was to inspect what she had found. She indeed have a leech on her. She pulled it off, but was bleeding. We saw the offending leech on the bottom of the crystal clear lake – and it was a big sucker (no pun intended). When we saw the leech, most of us lost our taste for swimming so we got out and lay in the sun for a while.
I took my camera out of the waterproof case to take some more pictures of the lake (the waterproof lens was a little smudged so I wanted to get a clearer picture of the water) and this is about when terrible thing number two happened. I dropped my camera right into that beautiful soft, fluffy, powdery white sand. Uh oh! I quickly brushed off all the sand I saw and blew in the creases and cracks of the camera. I figured it would probably be ok. I didn’t see any sand remaining on the camera, so I pushed the button to turn it on. The lens started to come out… then it stopped. The LCD screen flashed angrily “Lens Error!” Great. I found a piece of grass to try to get every last bit of sand out of the lens area and blew into the cracks as hard as I could. I did eventually get the lens to open and close again, but it made a funny sound as it was doing it. “no matter”, I thought, “I can deal with funny sounds. I’ve lived with my sister Stacy for years and I got used to her funny sounds!”
I didn’t have time to take any more pictures as everyone was rushing for the bus. I carefully put my camera into it’s case and told myself that I’d take some pictures later to test it out. We headed to the ferry, all of us a bit sad that our time would soon be coming to an end. I went to the sundeck of the boat and decided to take a picture of the island as we were leaving. I aimed the camera to take a shot when I realized that something was wrong. The camera turned on, the lens opened and extended as it should (with the addition of a funny noise) but it wouldn’t focus. Noooooooo! I tried in vain to focus on multiple different spots in the boat but it just would’t work. It made more funny noises. Fraser Island has now taken my watch and my camera! I raised my fist and shook it at the island as it grew smaller and smaller. I shouted “damn you, Frasier Island! You have not yet taken my spirit!” I was consoled by my Irish and English friends and we back down to the middle deck to sit down and share a good cry.
So that was my horrible news. I lost my watch and my camera on one trip. Although my personal bad luck on the island doesn’t even compare to the bad luck of it’s namesake, Captain Fraser. Captain Fraser, his wife Eliza, and his crew were sailing around Australia when they shipwrecked a few hundred kilometers from the island. Most of the crew went on the lifeboat to try to find land but they left the Captain, his wife, and his first and second mate with the ship. The ship and everyone on it soon washed up onto Fraser Island. When they did, they were captured by the Aboriginals living there and forced to work. Captain Fraser was old and frail and was not a very good worker, so he was soon after speared in the back by the Aboriginals and he died. The first and second mate also died on the island, but Eliza was saved and she returned to England. About 20 years later she was killed when she was hit by a horse-drawn tram. The island was eventually named after the Frasers. I suppose when an island brings you that much bad luck, it’s only fair. Maybe they should change Lake Wabby to be named after me: “Karen Lake”. And the sand at Lake Birrabeen could be named “Karen Sands”. It’s only fair, right?
Anyway, I guess the fact that I broke my camera is no big surprise. I am actually shocked that it took so long for me to break it. I am way too clumsy with my things. It already had quite a few dents and chips in it, but it was just no match for a couple of itty, bitty grains of sand. I wasn’t as upset about the camera as I was about the watch, I was just glad that my photo cards were OK.
And now our Fraser trip was over, so we all said our sad goodbyes, with promises to keep in touch. Despite the fact that this was one of the shortest trips I had been on yet, I got on very well with the people on it. We got to know each other better than I got to know the people on the three or four day trips I took. I did have fun and learned a lot about that fascinating Island, and I wouldn’t go back in time and not go just to save the watch and the camera. Though I would fasten the watch a little bit tighter and I’d have not taken the camera out of the protective waterproof case until after I left the beach.
This morning I woke up very early to go to the electronics store and see about getting another camera. Some electronics in Australia seem to be better priced than they are in the US, so I figured I should see what I could get. Plus I was going to the Australia zoo next and I knew I’d want to be able to take pictures there. I researched a few cameras on Amazon, and checked out the reviews. I decided to go with the one camera that I thought would be perfect for me. It’s shockproof for a distance of 5 meters, freeze-proof, waterproof, and crushproof. Basically, it is a Karen-proof camera. I took note of the Amazon price before I went to the store, and I was happy to see that it was about 30 dollars cheaper in the store than it was on the American Amazon site. The only downfall to this camera was the fact that it used XD cards instead of SD cards, and I already had a nice supply of SD cards that would now go to waste. Well, at least I can still use them as disks for my mini-computer.
So I am now in Noosa in my hostel (which I will talk about in another post) and tomorrow I am off to the Australia zoo.
I wasn’t planning on writing another post before my trip to Frasier Island, but interesting things have happened so I just couldn’t stop myself.
First – I had a 12 hour bus ride from Cairns to Airlie Beach on the 9th. Airlie beach was an incredibly beautiful town, even though it was a big touris/spring break partying kind of place. I stayed at a hostel called ‘Beaches’ which apparently was just another huge never-ending party hostel. I don’t mind partying every once in a while, I’m not that old yet, but I am also trying to keep my partying to a minimum during this vacation. I’d much rather spend my money on things like kayaking with the dolphins than drinking beer, and Airlie Beach was only a short stop before my next 12 hour bus ride the following evening. But wow… I thought the hostel in Cairns was bad. The incredible noise at this place until all hours of the night – on a Wednesday! Airlie Beach is now the loudest place I have ever had to sleep in. If anyone were ever to ask me to recommend a place to stay whilst in Airlie Beach, I would have to tell them NOT to stay at Beaches – unless they want to party hard all night long. If that is the case it could actually be quite convenient! You can get drunk 10 steps away from where you are sleeping, and then stumble home at four in the morning, easy!
I did manage to sleep through the noise. I’ve become pretty good at sleeping through anything now with all the hostels I have been staying at for the last three months. Plus, I was exhausted from the long bus ride. I woke up the next morning and I had until 8:00 PM to explore until my bus left, so I decided to check out the town.
As you can see by these pictures, there is no arguing that Airlie is a gorgeous beach town:
Unfortunately, there really wasn’t much to do there during the day – it was such a small town. It normally is just the starting point for those who will be doing the Whitsundays, an extremely popular destination for backpackers. The Whitsundays is all about sailing, scuba diving or snorkeling, swimming, and partying all night for a 3-5 day boat trip. I had decided against doing the Whitsundays for a few reasons:
It didn’t seem like all that much fun to me, despite the fact that it has incredibly good reviews. I’ve just never been that excited about long boat rides. I’ve never been on a cruise, and I don’t feel like I am missing out.
I was trying to save money for my last couple of weeks in Australia. This trip has been more expensive than I had originally anticipated. Australia is a very expensive country!
I had just come from a trip where I got sea sick on a short boat ride. Do I really want to chance that being my fate for five days in a row?
So I skipped Whitsundays but I stopped at Airlie Beach anyway so I didn’t have to be on the bus for 24 hours straight.
So here are a few of the interesting things that happened while I was at Airlie Beach. First – I saw one of the girls from my Heading Bush group! Sandra, my yodeling instructor, was just walking by as I was eating lunch. What do you think the chances of that are? Australia is a huge place, and after Alice Springs we had all gone our separate ways to different parts of the country. It seemed like such an incredible coincidence that I saw her.
Interesting thing number two – later in the day, I saw two of the girls that were in my Surf Camp group! This was definitely an amazing coincidence! I was a little embarrassed when they called out to me – I sort of recognized them when they yelled my name, and I knew I knew them from somewhere, but I couldn’t remember their names, and I couldn’t remember where I knew them from. So I was trying to hold a conversation while mentally ticking off all the places I was sure I didn’t know them from. They kept asking me questions about what I have been up to, which had me worried that I would start talking about the place I had met them in. I think I pulled it off, and I did eventually figure out that it was surf camp – but not until after they left. I felt terrible that I couldn’t remember their names though because they didn’t seem to have any problem remembering mine.
The final interesting thing: look at the store they have here in Airlie:
It was just like the Coldstone Creamery we have in the states! They mix up the ice cream in front of you and sing when you tip them. I hope they are made by the same company, cause otherwise, trademark infringement! The worker inside had never heard of Coldstone though. I have to admit, I think that ‘Cold Rock’ does it better with a picture of Uluru on the sign. Very clever. I can’t even remember whether Coldstone has any picture of a specific rock on the sign.
Enough about Airlie! After the 12 hour overnight bus ride, I’m now in Hervey Bay, which is the starting point to get to Frasier Island. Hervey Bay is another quaint little beach town. It’s bigger, but not nearly as party-orientated. It’s beach is also not nearly as pretty as Airlie Beach, but it is nice – and this one doesn’t have all the signs warning about the deadly jellyfish.
I arrived in town at about 9:30 in the morning, and wandered around a little to check out my newest temporary surroundings. I saw a beauty shop advertising a great deal on a haircut with free eyebrow waxing, and since I needed both, I took them up on it. It was better for me to get my hair cut in Australia instead of waiting until I get home – I knew that you aren’t supposed to tip in Australia, so I’d save a little money! at least I hope I wasn’t supposed to tip. Otherwise I stiffed the poor woman.
After lunch I felt exhausted. I practically had to crawl to my room to take a short nap. The bus ride I’d just come from was a red eye and it isn’t very easy to sleep on a bus. I had gotten maybe three hours of sleep, and not good sleep. I forced myself to wake up after a couple of hours so I’d be able to fall asleep that night and wandered around town again. There isn’t really much to do here either. These beach towns are pretty boring during the day, unless you are spending the whole time at the beach.
Tomorrow I’m off to Frasier Island to see the crystal clear water, beautiful sandy beach, and plentiful wildlife. You will learn all about it when I get back on Sunday. But for now, I’d better go back to the hostel and pack.
Well, up until now all I have talked about is what I’ve done in Cairns, but haven’t really said anything about Cairns in general. Let’s fix that now!
Cairns is another city that is completely different from the others I have seen. I may have been a bit too harsh on cities in the start of my Australian journey. Cairns is in the tropical zone of Australia, so everywhere you look there are palm trees and other tropical plants. There are also many, many different kinds of birds. It still had the ugly buildings, but Cairns is a beautiful city.
As you might expect, the majority of the city is geared towards tourists (kind of like how Sydney was) so everywhere you look someone is trying to sell you something or trying to get you to go somewhere. But… if you can look past that… you can really start to enjoy the city. I am told that Cairns is considered very safe, which was good as I often found myself walking home in the dark after long hours of updating my blog at the inexpensive internet cafe. It also was very clean – much cleaner than Sydney.
The hostel I’m staying in is called ‘Bohemia Central’, and I have very mixed feelings about this place. The staff always seem to be really friendly (probably the friendliest staff I have met at a hostel yet) but the place itself is kind of annoying. It’s a big partying hostel, so people are loud all night long, every single night. My room happens to be very close to the bar so I can very clearly hear all the drunk people during all hours of the night. If they aren’t at the bar getting their drink on, they are thumping around the hallway outside my room and shouting to each another. So yeah, it’s quite annoying. Especially since almost every morning I’ve been staying here I’ve had to wake up at the crack of dawn for a new adventure. During my the last two days of staying here my interior light in the room hasn’t been working. Because my room is in a spot that doesn’t get much natural sunlight I have to do everything in the dark – day and night. I have asked them to fix it numerous times but they just keep giving me a sob story about how ‘oh they were supposed to come’ and ‘oh those lights are a pain to fix’. They keep promising to fix it… but here I am, and it is still broken. Not as if it matters much anymore, as I am leaving tomorrow, but still – it seems kind of ridiculous.
And now I’ll tell you the most amazing part of Cairns. Every morning and every night at sunrise and sunset, thousands and thousands of bats fill the sky. I am not exaggerating about the number. There are literally thousands of them. They fill up the sky, and for a few minutes all you can see or hear are bats. I was outside one evening for the evening flight, and they would swoop down pretty close to you you as they flew by. I can’t put the experience into words. It was also hilarious watching some people run by screaming.
So tomorrow I am off to Airlie Beach for one night, then I’ll be off to Hervey Bay for a trip to Frasier Island. Frasier Island is noted for being an amazing, pristine island completely made out of sand which is home to one of the clearest lakes in Australia. And after that it is off to the Steve Irwin Zoo!
AND I AM NOW ALL CAUGHT UP WITH MY POSTS! I can finally stop feeling rushed to finish them now. I feel like I have cheated you guys a bit with my last few because I just wanted to get them all done before I left for another city.
For now I am off to bed. I’ve got to wake up at 5:30 to be at to the bus station by 6:30. Goodnight all! Or good morning to you Americans.