I think I've updated about two months ago, which...well, crap. That was ages. I think I stopped when I arrived in Adelaide, which was (specifically!) 23 December!
Anyway. Adelaide was awesome! I ended up spending the holidays there, and reluctantly left after a couple of weeks. I stayed at a hostel called My Place Backpackers (257 Waymouth Street - I only know this cause there's a giant sign that I saw practically every day there that has been ingraved into my mind, I'm not completely crazy). Loved it there, the owner made you feel very welcome and there was a great group of people there...I saw a bit of Adelaide, most of it was spent relaxing on the hostel balcony, drinking, listening to music, reading. Adelaide is otherwise a small city (not town!), and very laid back..I visited its' Botanical Gardens, and several museums (on a tour led by Michael - a friend I met there - who made it quite entertaining!), the beach - which is at a small town called Glenelg, about a half hour train ride away (and niiice! You could see dolphins, I think, though I didn't see any). The layout of Adelaide is..well, at least the city centre of it, it's a square of blocks inside it and it's surrounded by greenery. It's sort of like the Canberra layout, I think (but I haven't been to Canberra, I've only heard about it). Also visited Liquorland, since it was holidaytime. In the meanwhile, I've learnt a new language (balcony language) and have possibly extended my geekiness to another notch, we'll see in a little while. People are very friendly, laid back naturally..I met two men on the street that were looking at a pidgeon on a roof and noting how fat it was. Apparently one of the men fed it twice a day, and now it can just wobble. We had a bit of a conversation, it was pleasant.
I decided to go up the east coast, since there was so little time (and money, technically), so I pretty much went to loads of beaches! The good thing is that I have a tan! The bad thing is that I've been beaten up by the waves many, many times...Very ungraceful on my part. And also that my camera has had almost no action, since it's been locked up away from the sun. It's difficult to describe everything, since going from beach to beach is sort of alike..but here goes.
I went to Melbourne for a few days, where I met a few German guys that put loads of things on my iPod (so it's been reconstructed) and had a few good days there. Melbourne is a very quirky city, and very loveable, but since I just left Adelaide and still kinda wanted to stay, I wasn't as excited as I usually would be.. But revisited Newcastle (north of Sydney), and stayed for a week, baking in the sun. They have the Blackbutt Reserve there, so I went to see it - saw emus, kangaroos, wallabes (sp), wallaroos, loads of birds - and koalas! I got to pet a koala! Its' fur feels like an old person's hair - but fluffier! They live until they're about 12 years or so - I petted the one that was about 9 years - the younger one was about 6 or 9 months and clung to its' keeper (did I mention there were two?) like mad. I was walking around with two German girls, who changed their hairstyles four times between the two of them once they saw these three (not too appealing) guys in the vicinity. We were in a freaking forest!! Petting koalas! Come on! Anyway. We split off to get back, since I wanted to eat my lunch (there were people picnicing there as well, so loads of kids and barbeques and cricket playing, it was so awesome) - so they went back up the hill of forest to find the busstop (and I proceeded down the hill, which was less strain and also had a busstop). However...I couldn't find the bus stop with my bus, and when I asked people in this restaurant, no one knew - and there's like two streets there! How can you not know?! It was weird, sort of. But the shop owner was really nice and gave me a ride into town, after he picked his kids up (since he was going in the same direction). So I got there before the German girls, ha. Newcastle also had the Newcastle Permanent, which is this outdoor movie watching thing with a giant screen - so everyone picnics, brings blankets, food, children and things and watch a movie - whatever's playing. I saw Mamma Mia! and Wall-E But before the movie begins, there's a 2-3min long movie thing of Newcastle - and it's all these happy 60s, 70s people doing things (like swimming, running, cooking, fishing) to funny music. I love it!! Newcastle is the love of my life. (which is why I visited it a third time, and everyone thought I was nuts - that was a bit embarassing, but I would come back again..so no dignity whatsoever.)
As you go up the east coast, it gets more and more humid..which can get a bit painful. But it's ok. But the surf is good (which I didn't do this time around, since I could barely keep my clothes on and didn't want to buy extra things to keep my clothes on anyway, since I was here for so short), the waves kill you like usual, and the beaches are freaking beautiful! At Coff's Harbour, I found a beach that was protected by a sort of bay, so the waves were small..I peed myself with happiness. And on that topic, an ant peed on me and it hurt a lot. Never had that happen before.
I skipped a Byron Bay and Surfers Paradise, because of natural bad timing, which sucked.. but I'll be back in a while, so I'm not too fussed. But about not going to Surfer's I'm completely fine with, since it's a freak of nature. The place is not what its' name seems to be...it's full of freaking skyscrapers! It was weird..concrete and skyscrapers. Byron Bay, on the other hand, is a more or less a complete hippie joint with loads of
parties. But I'd like to visit it. Thanks, nature. Anyway, enjoyed Noosa - a small town up north with amazing beaches - just breathtaking! And has a national park, which has a rainforest area and hiking spots...I found an area where you can sit on these giant boulders and watch the waves hit the said boulders and spray up 2-3 meters high (or more?), making this deep rumbling sound that only waves can make. It was like a little Scotland in Australia! And while you're watching this awesome sight, you're getting overcome by ants, which don't seem to want to quit torturing you (that's when I got peed on). I managed to miss my bus north in Noosa, so I ended up having to stay an extra night (in secret!), which was exciting.
I spent Australia Day (Jan 26) in Brisbane, in a hostel where no one talks to each other, so it was a bit annoying, but it was ok. Saw the fireworks from the bridge (on the Southbank, along the river) with a bunch of other people, it was pretty neat. A couple of people would walk by and yell "Aussie Aussie Aussie!" and you would hear "Oi Oi Oi!" yelled back from a bunch of other directions...I went out to Southbank to see their fair, and there were all these stands and music and such, and then a special stand with people giving out free sunscreen! And everyone was slopping it on!
You definitely know you're in Australia when you see that...in Canada, I think they would be giving out dinner coupons or something, sausages, I don't know. But nothing for the sun....the sun is crazy strong here. And they have a little "beach" there, too, which looks like a mix between a beach (with sand), a pool (with water in it?) and a pond (with rocks surrounding the perimeter at some points). It's very odd..
The worst was when I got to Airlie Beach, up north, since I wanted to get to Cairns (flight out, long story). Well, one thing the guidebooks don't tell you is that right about the winter time (like now) is when the cyclone season is on in Queensland...so the roads north of Airlie Beach were flooded and blocked. Couldn't get up. And then they would block sometimes to the south, too. So you couldn't go south. And you couldn't go west, since inland it was worse (near the flooded rivers), and you couldn't go east, since that was the ocean and you would get eaten by jellyfish. First thing I heard was from these guys in my room, they've been there two weeks
and were trying to get the hell outta there. And another girl checked into the hostel 5 times in a week...she kept getting sent back with the bus. So that was a pleasant welcome...I didn't know I'd get trapped there for five days. I met a guy on my bus who was trapped as well (also with a flight from Cairns), and bumped into another friend from Brisbane (also stuck, also flight from Cairns), and there was another girl that had her stuff sorted out in the end, so she got lucky. But either way, we spend less than a week discussing escape tactics from the lovely Airlie Beach, which, by the way, was pissing with rain worse and worse every day. The best solution in the end, was to drive down to Brisbane via camper van (the cheaper version, I should say, since our airlines were being poo and wouldn't let us change the destinations of our flights cause of the flooding) - the guy I met in Brisbane had a Wicked camper van, so we had to wait for him to come back from his sailing trip (which was wet, apparently) to see if he was up for it - and in the end we ended up leaving on a roadtrip to Brisbane...
However! Since the roads were blocked south on and off, we kind of hoped we would actually be able to get through...so we drove like mad at first and did it! We had to pass Mackay (south of Airlie Beach), since down to Mackay was the flooded area. The van itself was a piece of crap, since it kept randomly turning itself off on the highway, when you had five lorries right behind you (and these guys are scary and huge and make you think of trucker serial killer stories). First night we slept at a rest stop, since it was dark, and it was horribly hot in the van, I got kicked a lot (cause van guy kicked out a lot in his sleep, my ribs were not happy), and smelled like van the next morning. But we went on to Noosa (mentioned above!) and spend a few nights there, going to the beach and relaxing, and washing ourselves (which was very welcome, after driving in the camper van since it got so horribly sweaty, I've never felt grosser before - but quite an
experience!). Also spent a great deal of time trying to figure out flights and things, since time was running out until our flights, and the flight prices kept changing...in the end, I decided to give up my 80 CAD worth of flight and try to see if my travel insurance will be so kind to reimburse me, and booked a flight to Sydney from Brisbane - when we arrived in Brisbane, I mean. Which was full of people - so we found the only hostel with room for the night...20 minutes away from the centre, there was some weird late fee (we called them at 3pm, so they're just weird), and we had to wash the sheets before we left the next day (we stayed for one night). Ridiculous. But the next day I was off and away to Sydney...and away from crazy expensive Brisbane.
Because of the floods in the north, loads of people did what we did, and came down south..to Brisbane! So it was crowded. But the weird thing is, while north Queensland was full of cylcones, rain and everything, the south was still in draught. You would go into a hostel and they would have signs saying "showers under 4 minutes, pls"...though I can vouch that the girls at least didn't do that...I waited for ages once! And then the southeast part of Australia has been going through dreadful bushfires, as bad as the floods up north (except much, much worse)..many people died there, which I was astonished to read about once I got to a newspaper. I didn't hear anything about fires until I got past the flooded area... But Sydney, where I am now, is safe from flood or fire..it's cloudy enough, however. I've met up with a couple of friends a few times, and it's good to meet up again...one thing I don't enjoy about travelling is when you meet good friends you have to split off after a short while to go in your own directions..and who knows when you'll meet up again? A few days, or weeks, or years? Everything is very short..so in a way, the whole experience is very bittersweet. But I still wouldn't change it for the world. All time counts.. I"m reading a book called "One crowded hour" - a biography of Neil Davis, a cine cameraman from Tasmania who covered wars..the Vietnam war. He got killed in his work in the end, but he was the best there was, I think. And his motto was a line from a poem, that I quite agree with...
- "Sound, sound the clarion, fill the pipe,
Throughout the sensual world proclaim:
One crowded hour of glorious life,
Is worth an age without a name!"
- - Thomas Osbert Mordaunt (1730-1809)