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Published: December 23rd 2008
Let There Be Light!
The beginning of our fifteen hour drive south starting in Bowen. I am not used to seeing the sun rise.
To somewhat steal an allegedly fictitious line from the revolutionary Paul Revere, “The Americans are Coming!” After almost four months in Australia, I could practically count the number of Americans I had met on one hand…and that includes Morgan, Jamie, and Stephanie! What is that all about? Well, in about a week span, that number almost doubled, but we will get to that later.
Time to head south. Where the weather is cooler and the ocean is not littered with stingies & bities. About twenty hours on the road in less than thirty hours with only one stop to sleep in Bowen and Stephanie and I found ourselves back in Caloundra…fifteen minutes late for trivia night. I was bummed. After a nice couple of days enjoying the sun & sea, we went back to my relatives, the Hanley’s & O’Regan’s, in Brisbane. As expected, we were welcomed with open arms. Our time there was enjoyable and it was great to see them again.
After a few days in Brisbane, we were ready for the coast. We went straight to Mermaid Beach to visit two of Stephanie’s Ecuadorian friends. A crazy night later and we went down to the Currumbin
Greatest Concert Ever!
Beck, Blake, Steph, and me at the Art vs. Science concert at the Great Northern Hotel in Byron Bay. You are looking at about 15% of the crowd right there.
Park to alleviate the hangover with rock jumping. Then, we charged back to Byron Bay where we would chill in the sun for the next couple of weeks…or so we thought.
Sun? For the most part, but intermittent rain was a consistent nuisance. Chill? Not so much with the first American arriving a couple of days after we got to Byron. Beck (or Bryan) arrived in mid-November and like the rest of my friends coming, he brought some much welcomed energy, new ideas, and a desire to party.
His first idea, and maybe only coherent one, was to head up to Brisbane for a night to see the Rugby World Cup Finals. This worked out perfectly as Stephanie and I were also able to sell The Champ to a Pommy couple up there (Aussies tend to refer to their British counterparts as Pommy
). It was tough to say goodbye to The Champ, but the Brits had an envelope full of cash, which brushed all heartbreak aside. When all was said and done, we had traveled nearly 5,500 kilometers (around 3,400 miles). Not as much “kilometerage” as some people, but nothing to be ashamed of. To put
The Way to the Lighthouse
Heather, Me, Cararayne, and Beck.
that distance in comparison, that is roughly the trip from Newport Beach, CA to Newport, NY to Newport, RI to Newport, VA…the City of Angels to Sin City six times roundtrip…Paris to Moscow and back as the crow flies…and, well, Brissy to Cairns to Byron to Brissy with a bunch of stops in between.
Enough about the van. It is time for a rugby match and not just any rugby match, but the Rugby League World Cup Finals! Australia versus New Zealand! The two best teams in the world! It was expected to be a great match, but not necessarily end extremely close. Australia had won the previous six championships, eight of the last nine dating back to 1968, and won all four of their games leading up to the Finals with a combined score of 180 to 16, but let’s not spoil anything…
Me, Stephanie, and Beck… three of over fifty-thousand people wandering into Suncorp Stadium…the Rugby League World Cup Finals…the Kangaroos versus the Kiwis…the heart of Brisbane…views of the city's CBD skyline…painted faces…Aussie togas…green wigs…beer beer beer—“First game, heh? Well, cheers mate!” (sounded like Ch’r Mite!
)—we get to our seats…green & yellow…black & white…the introductions…The Haka…”ka
Also, the name of the restaurant on the beach about a mile south.
mate, ka mate, ka ora, ka ora, tenei te tangata puhuruhuru”…the game starts…no pads or helmets…tackle tackle tackle…beer beer beer…toss toss tackle toss tackle toss toss toss he breaks free to the 35 to the 30 to the 25 the 20 the 15 10 5 and dives in the middle tryyyyyyyy (or maybe goal, but that is what they kick afterwards)…the Aussies jump to a quick 10-0 lead…”beat it, beat it, no one wants to be defeated”
…tackle tackle tackle run run run…beer run…in four minutes the Kiwis score 12 unanswered to jump to a 12-10 lead…toss toss tackle toss picked off by the Kangaroos for another try…half-time with the Kangaroos up 16-12…beer run…tackle tackle tackle…modern day Vikings or Gladiators with a ball or just your everyday meatheads…”and everything is the back with a little slack, and inside-out is wiggida wiggida wack”
…the Kiwis get back on the board and extend it to a 24-16 lead…tackle tackle tackle…beer beer beer…quick try by the Kangaroos with another failed conversion to cut their deficit to 24-20…toss toss tackle toss kick toss toss tackle toss toss and he is off to the races…the Kiwis jump to a 34-20 lead and never look back…
You Are Like...
"A Vietnam vet that refuses to leave the bush." - Brian Chedwick
It was a great game! Kind of set the bar high if any of us want to see another rugby match.
One night in Brisbane and then it was time to go back to Byron, except now by bus. This took much longer, but provided plenty of time for Beck to tell us about his night in the hostel. He is the proud (or not so proud) owner of this story, but let’s just say it involved an unexpected late night cuddly visitor, a mistaken identity with some guy named Billy, falling cosmetics, and neighborly copulation that was in my line of sight and a little too close for comfort for Beck.
New visitor number two! Blake! A week break from the rat race. No time for him to sleep, much less relax, as we had a concert to attend several hours after his bus pulled into Byron. Now where is the goon?
We were going to see a certain band (they will remain nameless because they sucked, I am not here to bash some small band trying to make it big, and we left midway through their third song), but loved the opening two bands. First,
El Campeon II
In Caloundra. Taking in the sun. The last known photograph of The Champ.
we saw The Traps, who were very similar to The Strokes. We were four of the maybe fifteen people in the venue. This worked out to my benefit though as Beck said he would buy me a beer if I would dance right in front of the stage for an entire song. It was a win-win-win situation. Beck, Blake, and Steph got to watch me dance on an empty dance floor, I got a free beer, and the band got their first fan of the night. After The Traps was the “best live band ever,” Art vs. Science. Maybe it was the hard liquor that both Beck & Blake brought from home, maybe it was because we added goon & beer to the equation, or maybe it was because THEY FUCKING ROCKED! Two guys on the keyboards and a drummer making the weirdest noises with the sickest beats and the bass on max and the place was on fire. There might have only been forty-something people there, but everybody was loving it. Plus, they had a large inflatable penguin on stage that later joined the rest of the fans on the dance floor.
A few days later and it
was time for a road trip. Back to the Currumbin Park—“How high are these rocks? Like squeeze your butt cheeks tight?” “Wow, Blake! No. You won’t be receiving an enema.”—and then Nimbin. The Park was great again as it is so refreshing to swim in the cool water from the recent rain after jumping from rocks about 20-feet high. After that, it was time for Beck to whistle at kangaroos thinking it would make then hop, then get lost for awhile, and then finally arrive in Nimbin (to explain getting lost, there were signs pointing to the left AND right with the same city as the destination…stupid). In Nimbin, we walked the lone street, “chilled” in some back restaurant, and headed home with Amadou & Mariam for our ears and the beautiful green rolling hills for our eyes.
Thanksgiving! Obviously, the Aussies don’t celebrate it, but I was extremely happy to have my friends around to partake in our version of the festivities with me. So, what shall we make? How about BBQ Kangaroo & Mashed Potatoes? Sounds great! And it was. I love mashed potatoes and the kangaroo turned out surprisingly good, plus it doesn’t have tryptophan so
Is That a Fanny Pack?
I mean, I do have to wear glasses sometimes, but...
it didn’t put us to sleep.
The day after Thanksgiving was unbelievable as well. Since Australia is sixteen or seventeen hours ahead of California (you would think I would know after so much time there, but the time changes between QLD & NSW), I was able to Skype my family. I saw so many relatives from both sides of the family, which was unreal. After being away for eight months, nothing is better than seeing Family & Friends. That is what I was thankful for this Thanksgiving.
A couple more nights on the town trying to avoid, messing with, or laughing at the Schoolies at places like Cheeky Monkeys and it was time for Blake to return home. I was thoroughly impressed that he made his bus ride to Brissy.
That day Stephanie and I had an idea. It seemed a little crazy, but it reminded me of something. I am not sure who said it first, Friedrich Nietzsche or Kanye West, but “that which does not kill you makes you stronger.”
There we were. Lacking a little color and talking a little nervously. Lacking color? How when you have been on the beach for the
Before the Rugby World Cup Finals in Brissy. It was pretty funny. After I asked them if I could take a picture with them, a few more came down and asked if they could take a picture with Steph.
past month plus? Talking nervously? Haven’t you known each other for quite some time?
Ten minutes later and fourteen thousand feet higher and WHOOOOSH!!!
, the door to the plane opens. Reality strikes. The nerves tense. The hands get a little sweaty. AUSTRALIA’S HIGHEST SKYDIVE! Or so their slogan claims. Stephanie first and then me. I tell my Instructor that I had jumped once before in Lake Elsinore and he responds, “Oh, nice. I worked there for a little.” Little did I know that meant “Sweet, then we are going to do several flips and some gnarly spins once we get out of this damn confining tube you call a plane.” One, two, and off you are…nine point eight meters per second per second! The ground is racing towards you::::::closerCloserCLOSER! It was AWESOME! About seventy seconds later and WHOOOMPH!
The chute opens. Time to relax and take in the scenery. The perfectly blue Pacific Ocean and the surprisingly vivid green Hinterland. A much better view way up here.
After the adrenaline cooled and the heart resumed its normal beat, life was cranked way up again with the anticipated arrival of Cararayne & Heather (or Schmeegs & H-Bomb). They had
just spent a week in Sydney and were kind enough to grace us with their presence in north New South Wales.
I mentioned how I should cut my hair several times, but these were always followed with an adamant “NO!” from everybody. It is like I am some sort of Chia Pet. Well, I guess the grass will continue to grow.
A day after the girls came, it was time for Steph to head down to Sydney and fly back to the U.S. She was a wonderful travel companion (obviously, she put up with me for several months) and I think has the itch to get back on the road sooner than later. Scuba diving, skydiving, and working on a farm…not a bad trip.
With no resemblance of any voice of reason, Beck, Schmeegs, H-Bomb, and I went back out in the town for a couple nights of fun. It was so great to catch up with them and be reminded why I enjoy home so much. In between our nocturnal activities, we made our Journey to the East to Cape Byron and cleaned off the BBQ for some more kangaroo. The trip to the lighthouse on
Happy Kangaroo Day?
Celebrating Thanksgiving in Byron. BBQed kangaroo, mashed potatoes with gravy, and goon. I loved it!
Cape Byron was beautiful as always and this time around we took Beck’s way along the beach and through the trees, which was much better.
Much too soon, it was time for Cararayne and Heather to bid us farewell. Shockingly, they are still in the Brisbane Airport! Apparently, Cararayne got a little carried away and forgot she was in an airport terminal and started yelling “H-Bomb!” They were handcuffed and pepper sprayed immediately and detained for further investigation, which has progressed slowly. Okay, maybe I am joking a little, but rumor has it that they missed more than one flight back down to Sydney and were allegedly spotted in the bar.
And then there were two. It was time to call it quits in Byron for the time being and the last night there was filled with goon and Shithead with Swedes, Dutch, Belgians, Germans, Brits, and Beck. My most international night in Australia yet! Why did it take so long? It is always a funny time hanging out with such a broad range of people, like when the reserved German girl says to the Dutch guy, “Can we only speak English at this table please?”
Blake, me, Steph, and Beck.
were off to Hosanna in Stokers Siding. By we, I mean me, Beck, and BECK’S BRIT BOY, Adrian (or Ade). Maybe I should just leave that part out. We were supposed to go help on some organic farm by planting trees, but they didn’t need help the days we were there. It worked out perfectly.
This farm that seems more like a church camp tries to entice backpackers with such eccentricities like glow worm tunnels that I thought I was listening to Dwayne Hoover give some spiel about the Miracle Cave. It turned out to be much better though (not that I, or anybody else, could give an adequate review of the Miracle Cave).
We show up and five minutes after throwing our backpacks in our triangle-shaped wood box we would call home, we were playing Catapult. I hope we don't sound too pathetic, but this basically meant we were shooting tennis balls and running in the grass holding shields with about 25 ten-year olds. My team kicked their ass, but I won’t rub it in (plus, they quit early).
This place had much more, too. A small lake with a ten-foot plus diving board for Beck
to bust flips off of, a zip-line into the water that was not meant for people who weighed over 120-pounds, and best of all, an old-school wooden sauna that nobody used, but us.
For day two, we were off to Mount Warning for the 8km roundtrip climb. We woke up way too late to see the sunrise from the peak, but after the fog cleared, we were rewarded with 360-degree views from the four lookout points at almost 3,800-feet. Well after dark, it was time for the glow worms. This is on some abandoned railroad tunnel that has attracted a bunch of these weird bugs and was actually pretty cool. A kilometer there and back in a pitch black tunnel led only by the light of the worms.
Our stay was short, but it was time to go and I was off to my second to last destination in Australia, Surfer’s Paradise. A fellow American from Colorado that we met in Byron, Glen, met us out there and we celebrated my last night in this country with Beck. To define the evening in three words, I would use weird, messy, and sandy. I am leaving it at that…for
I waved goodbye to Beck after several very fun weeks as he was heading up to Cairns for some world-class diving and I was jumping on an extremely fun fourteen hour bus ride down to Sydney. It was weird to be back on my own. Well, I guess you are never alone while traveling, unless you want to be, but it was great to be with friends from home practically my entire time in Australia.
The bus ride. No sleep. Insomnia kicks in. The big red clock lights won’t stop flashing. My mind starts to wander and I begin thinking how my favorite time in Army time is 00:00. When somebody asks the time, do you say ZERO? What does that mean? You overcame time? When you accept the Journey is the goal, have you defeated time? The Journey will never end! Not for me, not for you, not for anybody…
Back in Sydney. The largest city in this large country. My friends from home might have left, but I had a few more to meet up with. The first person I met up with was my friend Jasmine from Nepal. She and her family had
me for dinner several nights in Pokhara and really made my time there so enjoyable. Somebody I wanted to meet back up with, but never thought I would…especially in Australia.
Next, I met up with Cararayne & Heather’s friend from home, Rachel. She was a friend of mine who I had just not met yet. I joined her and her English friend for dinner & drinks where I proceeded to say, “Pommy is short for Pompous, right?” Rachel & I found that funny. The Brit, not so much. We then went out on the town for some drinks, which was heaps
of fun (might as well use a little Aussie lingo). We met up with Rachel’s husband for a little, but with an all-day Christmas Work Party under his belt (and we all know how those can go), he called it a night. A bit later, after entering a rather questionable bar that included some dude only wearing overalls, we decided to call it a night as well.
A few days later, Rachel took me to Bondi Beach. I had never been, but heard about it when I was first in Sydney. Sunny, not a cloud in the
sky, and completely packed…on a Tuesday afternoon. The World Famous Beach that nobody outside of Australia has ever heard of! It was nice though and definitely worth checking out.
Thanks to all of you who joined me in Australia. I loved it! I really hope you enjoyed your time as much as I did. “I never can say goodbye, no no no!”
- Gloria Gaynor
Time for another continent to head further…or Furthur…or Furthuur
…like a vacuum
that keeps sucking you deeper and deeper until you have no clue where you are…
Let’s complete this circle and finish the rest,
The wheels are in motion,
One flew east, one flew west,
One flew over the Pacific Ocean,
Farewell English and Aussie slang,
I am flying far away,
Farewell marsupials and American gang,
I am jet setting to Chile…
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