Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Always Listen to Your Mom

Brisbane (pop. 2,000,000) is just north of the Gold Coast and only about an hour’s drive away.  Each weekend, there are various markets around the city, so my friend Caitlin and I decided to check it out!  We hitched a ride with one of my Aussie friends who was headed up there and had him drop us off at a hostel in downtown. After checking it out, we decided it was a bit dodgy for us and opted to stay in at an American friend’s apartment who goes to Griffith University at one of the Brisbane campuses.  He was actually in Gold Coast for the night, so we were able to take over his room.

The area of South Bank in Brisbane borders the river and it is a gorgeous place to spend the day.  There is a river walk with a canopy of flowers covering it, a massive Ferris wheel, adorable cafes, and best of all, markets!  We checked out the markets and found some things we decided we really “needed”. I went to the cash machine to get some cash for the purchases, only to have it take my card! (Cue the Panic Button)  I called the bank, they said they couldn’t do anything about it, called my bank, couldn’t get any information, and finally, called my mom.  I was out of cash and any way to get cash, so I was definitely in a bind.  We decided to cut our weekend a bit short and got a ride back to Brisbane with my friend who brought us up.  

So, not only was my Brisbane weekend cut short, I was now in a bind for money.  I just happened to be all out of groceries, nearly out of minutes on my phone, and out of money on my GoCard (public transportation card).  How do you eat, call your bank, or travel to open a new account without any of these things?  Answer: You can’t!  I valiantly ate cereal and PB&J sandwiches for the rest of the week, had my mom communicate with my bank, and walked back and forth to school.  I learned that one can survive on cereal and PB&J for a week without adverse effects and decided that listening to my mom to set up an emergency account when I first arrive in Australia probably would have been a fantastic idea.  Emergency money arrived the next week, and the first thing I did was set up an emergency account at an Australian bank. J


Australia is home to the world’s largest sand island, Fraser Island, and I was lucky enough to be able to tag along with one of my American friends and an Australian couple who are family friends of hers when they headed up there for the weekend.  A friend who studied in Gold Coast a year before me told me that I absolutely must visit Fraser Island, so I was delighted at the prospect of seeing what beautiful scenery it had to offer!  It’s tough to plan a trip to Fraser Island because no one can get on or around the island without a four wheel drive vehicle.  There aren’t any paved roads on the island… just one-lane sand clearings between trees. If you’re a tourist, you must go with a tour group or brave the driving by renting a 4WD on your own.  (And we’re talking bare-bones 4WD… no A/C, seatbelts or upholstery, just seats!)  The driving is pretty treacherous and dangerous, so I was relieved that we would be traveling with a couple who not only had a comfortable SUV but had driven on the island plenty of times. 

We spent the Friday night of the weekend in Brisbane with the parents of the wife.  They took us to South Bank, which is a beautiful park area right along the Brisbane river.  A birthday celebration for Buddha was being held on South Bank, so we got in on some delicious Asian food and perused booth after booth of cheap Asian-looking paraphernalia.  (Yes, you know what kind of stuff I’m talking about.)  Once it got dark, we got on the CityCat, the ferry system along the Brisbane River that is part of the Brisbane/Gold Coast transportation network.  The view from the river of the city all lit up on a Friday night was so pretty!

The next morning, we were up bright and early to drive up to Fraser Island.  I think it was about a 3 hour drive (My friend and I slept most of the way!), and when we got there, we took the ferry from the mainland to the island.  We drove all along the beach and hit up a couple of hiking paths on our way to Lake Mackenzie, a freshwater lake in the middle of the island.  Lake Mackenzie did not disappoint the visual senses.  It is a body of beautiful clear blue-green freshwater with a beach around it… basically the most perfect body of water you could ever have, in my mind!  We then headed over to the other side of the island to a resort to watch the sun set over the ocean… breathtaking sight!  That night, we stayed in another resort on the island and were delighted to find out the restaurant was serving Mexican for dinner!  We hadn’t had or even seen a Mexican restaurant since we had been in Australia! (For obvious reasons… there isn’t any Mexican food because there aren’t any Mexicans.)

On Sunday, we continued to explore the island and traveled along the beach to Indian Head, a tall cliff you can climb, Eli Creek, a perfectly clear freshwater creek leading to the ocean, Champagne Pools, where the ocean crashes over the rocks and creates fizzing bubbles, and the Maheno, an old shipwreck right along the beach .  We also headed inland to another freshwater lake named Lake Wobby, which is only accessible by walking about a mile across a massive sand dune.  The dune steeply slopes downward into the lake, and the Midwesterner in me thought, “Wow… now that would be a fantastic sledding hill!”  That evening, we headed home, and I spent the rest of the night trying to get sand out of EVERYTHING I took with me!

Weekends are the Best!

My weekends in Australia were definitely days to look forward too.  With choices of going to the beach, heading to Brisbane, going to Aussie Rules football (footy) games, or traveling to nearby tourist destinations, I almost felt busier during my weekends than my weekdays!  One especially beautiful Sunday, my friends and I decided to spend the day at the beach.  We hopped on the bus and headed to Burleigh Heads, a beach about an hour or so bus ride from our apartment complex.  Burleigh is known as one of the more beautiful beaches in Gold Coast, so we weren’t disappointed.  It was so relaxing to soak up the sun, get lost in my book, and take a dip in the water every once in a while to cool off.  Later that evening, we were delighted to find out that every Sunday night, people put on fire-throwing shows in the park right next to the beach… cool!  They also have a drum and bongo circle going, and we had a great time dancing and watching the fire twirlers.  (A couple of my friends joined in on the fire jump roping; some had success… others had burned feet!)

Another weekend, an Australian friend of ours who plays on a minor league footy team in Gold Coast invited a bunch of us to head up to the Sunshine Coast with the footy team for one of their games.  (Cute footy players? Umm… count me in!)  We hitched the 2-hour ride with one of the players, dropped our stuff off at our hostel, and headed to a 3-story condo overlooking the beach where a bunch of the players were staying.  We had a great time and spent the rest of the night watching AFL, the professional Aussie Rules Football league and trying to learn all the rules!  (WAY different from American football!)  The next day, us girls headed to the beach for a bit and then watched the game from our friend’s truck.  It was so much fun eating snack food, soaking up the sun, and starting an impromptu dance party with our friend’s boombox and iPod.  It was almost like I was tailgating at a Mizzou game again!  (Except in a bikini… MUCH warmer weather!)  That night, the guys made a bonfire on the condo’s beach, so we all chilled there for a while then went out!  On Sunday, everybody was pretty burned out, so we spent the morning hanging out at the beach and headed back down to the Gold Coast that afternoon… what a weekend!

I'm Back!

As I’m sitting here in Los Angeles’s LAX with hours to spare between flights (and by hours, I mean 7 hours), it seems strange to me that my great Australian adventure is coming to an end.  If it weren’t for the American accents surrounding me and the funny-looking green money I just used to buy a smoothie, I think I would attempt to tell myself, “Don’t worry Lydia, it’s not true… you’re still in Australia.”  But alas, I have set foot on American soil once again.  And, luckily, it feels good!  I’m not quite to my wide-open and fresh-aired country farm surrounded by cornfields, but for the first time in almost half a year, my passport was considered “normal” and I wasn’t jumbled into the “foreign passport” line.  It’s nice to be home.  I know I’ve been a bit lax about writing in this since… well… a few months, but you can trust that it wasn’t because I didn’t have anything to report about.  I was simply having too much fun!  (And, uh, studying at the library.)  So again, I’ll try to work on an installment thing… after all, I’ll need something to keep me company while I recover from more than 30 hours of traveling (whew!) and the severe jetlag and Australia withdrawals that I’m sure will come in the next few days.