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Sunday
11/12/17

The island that smelled like mashed potatoes and more Crikey! Australia Part 6.

Posted by bostonki on November 12, 2017 in Uncategorized

Hello from Starbucks!  This blog post is brought to you by a solid ten hours of sleep!

We finished off our first two weeks in Mooloolaba with a Saturday trip down the Sunshine Coast.  Sunday morning, we jetted up to Northern Queensland for what would be two amazing weeks.  For our two-week trip, we had a couple parents along: Vince and Kim, both of who were awesome.  Who knew people in their forties would make a great addition to and not dampen the spirit of 28 20-somethings (or 19, in the case of Sam & I) on their own across the world?  I think if my parents were interested in coming, it’d feel like an impossibility to have fun (sorry, guys) but it worked out well.

To save the 15-hour drive, C organized us to fly the 1300 kilometers north to Townsville, from which we would access Magnetic Island.  Organizing a flight for over 30 people, including check-in, security, etc., is probably no easy task, but it could have been accomplished quicker than an hour and a half, C.  Sorry.

The flight was pretty brief, and they gave us an Australian specialty – Bundaberg sodas.  They’re manufactured a couple hours north of Mooloolaba, and they have amazing flavors such as ginger beer, lemon-lime, and sarsaparilla (root beer).  On point.

“Town so small had to walk on the tarmac”.  My take on JayZ and Kanye.

From Townsville, we caught a ferry to Magnetic Island, undoubtedly my least favorite part of the entire six weeks.  The island only had a population of 2,000 and was probably the loneliest place I’ve ever been in my life.  Plus, you couldn’t shake the smell of bad mashed potatoes on the road between our backpacker’s and the main town where the ferry docked.  I wasn’t crazy though, many others made independent comments about the smell.

I’m sorry, HOW many kilometers to Washington DC?  Oh yeah over 15 thousand.

The first day was terrible.  I walked the half an hour into town through the potato smell only to discover a main bakery that didn’t know how to accept credit cards and a resale shop that might not meet building codes.  If they even existed on the island.  The wifi was terrible so I just spent the day in bed with a book, literally wishing I was anywhere but the island.  The backpackers resort was fun though, especially at nighttime.  Their bar and eatery overlooked the beach and was decorated with neon string lights and an enormous Australian flag.  Everyone gathered there for super expensive nachos (the only food I was willing to try at that place) and beverages every night and just hung out.

Beachside featuring the Australian flag.

The second day, I decided to try my hand at actually enjoying the island.  So I walked into town (again) and decided to hop on a shuttle tour of the island (paid an obscene amount but it was better than moping).  It actually ended up being really cool.  He told us a lot about the history of the island and the folks who’d lived there, I saw an abandoned schoolhouse and museum, and we explored all corners of the island.  For the record, they have a school there for primary through year 6, but anyone that goes to the high school has to ferry across to Townsville.  Also got to feed wallabies in the rocks by the dock.

Abandoned schoolhouse turned museum/local shop featuring the stroller of a mom who decided to take her baby to this island for some reason beyond my comprehension.

I grabbed lunch with an older woman on the tour, also from the Sunshine Coast area, and we talked for a bit and I ate really expensive mint gelato.

The next (and last) day, Michelle, Mikaela, and I set out for probably my favorite day of the three.  We started by hiking one of the best paths (I did a heck of a lot of hiking in that six weeks), called so because it was the best place to see wild koalas.  And boy did we see them.  You hike until you spot a group of people craning their necks towards a super tall tree, or until you see an arrow made of sticks on the ground pointing at the tree.  It was wild. The previous day on my tour, I had run into a koala WITH THE JOEY ON HER BACK.  IN A TREE.  IN SOMEONE’S BACKYARD.  I came back to the states with a newfound appreciation for the animal, their cuteness, and a stuffed one brought from a cheap Chinese souvenir store in Cairns.

IN SOMEBODY’S BACKYARD.  Can’t see the Joey unless you look really hard at the grainy picture.

Forest view.  Ignore my back sweat.

Mikaela, me, and Michelle overlooking Horseshoe Bay!

Anyways, the top of the hike afforded us views found nowhere else.  You could see the expansive green of the island, one of the beach bays below us and across the way, the majestic, wonderful, SAFE, NOT LONELY mainland.

The last thing we did before sundown was riding horses.  We trekked out to a horse farm near a bay on the other side of the island from our backpackers, running into a playground along the way where Michelle and I shared a jumbo trampoline swing and just sang our hearts out.  Once we boarded our horses (mine was appropriately named Crikey), we set off through the forest.  The instructor commanded the horses to trot which freaked me out and pretty much convinced me I was going to fall off, get trampled, and die on this terrible island.  I tried signaling Crikey to slow down, to no avail.  Without exaggerating, I can say I held on for dear life.

Down at the bay, we barebacked the horses into the water.  It was amazing, and they loved to stop and take a drink.. until one of the horses relaxed its’ bowel muscles and we were frantically pulling our feet out of the water to avoid floating turds.  I guess feces was just the theme of the entire trip.

Michelle, me, Kristen, and Brooke.  Summer program students unimportant in the eyes of C but we’re clearly making the most of it.

The next morning, we packed up (and I lost a hearing aid, and C made a wonderful public service announcement about said lost hearing aid before I found it buried in the sand just as the bus was about to pull up) and headed for our long drive to the awesome rainforest sector of Queensland and the queen city herself, Cairns.

 

Tuesday
11/07/17

The Irwins Have a Boat Named Croc One.. and other Sunshine Coast adventures. Australia Part 5.

Posted by bostonki on November 7, 2017 in Australia, travel

It’s 7:15 PM, I took a three hour nap midday, and I’ve got an iced capp coursing through my veins.  Time to keep telling my story.

We spent two weeks in Mooloolaba/the Sunshine Coast area (Brisbane through Noosa Heads in the North), and the very last day of that two week span was spent exploring parts of the Sunshine Coast we hadn’t seen yet before embarking around Queensland for the remainder of the program (embarking around the Southern Pacific for friends and I).

Mooloolaba was just the cutest town.  The beach was the best on the Sunshine Coast, with rocks, sunrises to kill for, and almost magnetic sand that when the strong waves pass over, it cleans out any imperfections your foot left.  We had a killer view of the beach from our living room window, since we were only one block away.  As soon as the thermometer hit 75 (about 24 Celsius), we were out enjoying the beach.  Locals didn’t touch it until it started hitting 85.  They sat in front of beachside coffee shops with sweaters and blankets.  After all, it was winter.  On warm days after we were let out of classes or school visits, my friends and I would pack up and head to the beach.  The waves were Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon style and the water was crystal clear.  Even up to your knees in, you could see fish swimming below the surface (a facet that completely and utterly freaked out my friend Michelle, even though these beaches are probably 10 times cleaner than any Long Island can offer).  We played volleyball, Frisbee, and I failed miserably to achieve any sort of tan.  Best of all, the beach had free public wifi.

Sunrise on the rocks.  That sounds like an alcoholic beverage.

Corelli’s, the bookstore di-rectly across the street from our apartment complex, was my recluse when I wanted to be antisocial.  They had a book swap system.  But really the whole trip I was obsessed with books.  I knocked out five books in the six weeks I was gone – taking advantage of nights when I didn’t care to join my friends going out, or there was legit nothing to do, or that time I was sick in the Outback and stayed in bed all day (always fun, keep reading over the next couple weeks to hear THAT one).  And I didn’t return to the states with the same two books.

*Hand clap emoji*

At some point, I made it out kayaking with Michelle.  There was a company operating on the wharf directly behind our apartment building.  We were given a map and I was firmly attached from the beginning to the idea of finding Steve Irwin’s house (old family house?  Current family house?  The zoo is only 30 minutes away..) from the instructions on the map.  We got there and saw the majestic Croc One boat sitting in the water out front (seriously, everyone in this neighborhood had a dock and a boat.  I don’t even think it was that hoity-toity), but not without a struggle.  Turns out, fish are very active in the waters that wind through the neighborhoods.  At the first fish-out-of water she saw, Michelle flipped.  We sailed determinedly through hundreds of flopping fish, thankfully none of them landing in my kayak.  I may have lost it then.

During this time, I also became sort of a Queensland Maroons/rubgy fan.  The National Rugby League in Queensland and New South Wales is equivalent to the NFL.  Each winter, two special teams composed of NRL players from each state play in a series called the State of Origin.  Queensland’s had it locked up for years.  Our instructor gave us homework to go out and find a viewing of the game (not that hard).  We settled on some sort of beach sports bar along the esplanade and showed up decked out in Maroon and of course Queensland won.  (Flash forward to the finals.  I’m sitting in a bar/grill in New Zealand watching the game and of course we took home the championship again).  It was a cause I was committed enough to, so I later splurged and bought a $10 Maroons tee from a dollar store somewhere.  Oh and best part of that night?  When I spilled an entire bottle of pink Himalayan salt all over my French fries.

(Left to right)  Me, Hannah, Austin, and Sam ready to do our homework (also, my eyeliner is on point).

The esplanade along the beach was my favorite part.  TONS of mom and pop coffee shops littered everywhere (although none open past three PM, an annoyance to someone used to Spot and Starbucks being my favorite night work places), a full-size Ben and Jerrys, and tons of cute clothing shops.  Our favorite spot came to be Taps, another bar/grill that I still get homesick for sometimes.  Except for their wings.  I was fooled into their .50 wing night on Wednesdays.  Motto of the story, Australians can’t get a chicken wing right.

Gross wings NOT on point.

On that first Saturday of our cross-Queensland trip, we were paraded around the Sunshine Coast in a whirlwind to see their best spots.  Our first stop was the Glasshouse Mountains.  They were actually visible from my bedroom window, which was awesome, but they looked so much better from the lookout point C took us to.  And as always, there is an Aboriginal story attached.  Something about a son betraying a mother.

The Glass House Mountains

Our next stop was Montville, a cute crafty village (think Ellicottville) way up into the mountains.  I was super sad that we didn’t have more than a half an hour there, I could have easily stayed and explored all of the shops.  Flowers everywhere, and beautiful buildings with old water mills, family diners that would have given me the world’s biggest food baby, and the weird souvenirs.  I found a lovely koala and kangaroo nativity set in one shop and an Australia themed chess set.

Where’s baby Jesus?

Eumundi was probably my favorite stop of the day.  The destination – the Eumundi Markets – a weekly Saturday marketplace that felt oddly like the Allentown Art Festival to me.  The same types of vendors.  I ate a terrible peanut butter thing on some sort of weird, crumbly bread, and I will never make that mistake again.  I also found – what else – a bookstore.  Floor to ceiling shelves lined with every book (Australian at least) known to man and multistory at that.

We trekked up to the top of the Sunshine Coast and worked our way down on a hike through Noosa National Park.  C talked incessantly about how the hike required sneakers and how we should bring backup.  Well I didn’t have backup and so guess who had to finish the hike in flip flops after she tried jumping from rock to rock and landed in a filthy, mosquito-ridden puddle while bearing bleeding hands from failing to catch my fall?

The plaque next to the koala read “In memory of Harrold who died from a dog attack in Noosa National Park”.  Aw.

The hike was beautiful though – dramatic views everywhere.  At one point we were on a cliff and C was ready to lose whatever hair he had left on his head from people getting within 10 feet of the edge.  At the very end, we had a view overlooking the whole coastline – beach, then expensive houses, then nothing but forest.  We walked down what seemed like 1,000 stairs and caught the sunset on our way back for our last night in Mooloolaba for awhile.

Next time?  A desolate island that smelled like bad mashed potatoes (you’ll be able to tell this was my least favorite part of the trip), wild koalas, and me almost crying while on a horse.  Stay tuned.