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Published: April 1st 2013
After much anticipation we arrived in Byron Bay. Byron was a place we were all looking particularly forward to but unfortunately Cyclone Oswald hit there and we were stuck inside for days!
Initially we were meant to camp in our tent but we were given a site underneath a large tree. Having decided this was just a tad precarious we booked into a cabin in the hope we wouldn't drown or get hit by falling trees. A decision well made as the following morning we had a look at our allocated site and the said tree had toppled over! We all counted our blessings that morning! Byron wasnt even hit as bad as some other places but we experienced black outs, flooding and debris all over the roads. The supermarkets even lost power and had to close down. We still had to cook outside due to the cabin having electric hobs! Aided with an umbrella Jonny managed to whip up a carbonara which we then ate in the dark! Happy days.
Once the worst of the storm was over and it was safe to drive again, we were off to the Gold Coast. Our first night was spent in quiet Coolangatta where it was still a bit drizzly but finally we had electricity! Jonny and myself discovered the amazing invention of the jumping pillow (a trampoline built into the floor). After many failed attempts of back flips we decided it was time to move onto Surfers Paradise for a bit more liveliness. Surfers Paradise doesn't live up to its name. It was full of sky scrapers and high rise hotels that dirtied the skyline. The beaches were mostly closed due to the cyclone having created huge currents in the water. We luckily had a swimming pool at our campsite were we spent most of our days - including when we were caught up in a bomb crisis. A suspect package was left in a phone box next to our camp and following a car bomb the year previous, they decided to take this quite seriously. Bomb disposal units were sent out and we may have made an appearance on Ozzie news! Backpacking celebrities!!! Thankfully it turned out just to be a random empty box.
Our last day in the camper van we decided to head for the infamous Australia Zoo, more commonly known as the Steve Irwin zoo. This zoo definitely rates highly out of all the zoos I have been too, Marwell eat your heart out. As you can imagine the Croc show left us on the edge of our seats. The sheer size of the creature was incredible and the courage and nerves of steel of the guide were astounding. What was most amazing was the tiger show. Never before have I seen zoo keepers so close to these animals. The tigers were placing their front paws on the shoulders of the keepers and drinking milk out of a carton! Very odd and peculiar to see a large predator at ease with humans. They demonstrated how the tigers can climb trees and just how high they come jump. Afterwards we headed to the wildlife hospital next door where they rehabilitate koalas in particular. We saw a gorgeous koala sat in a wheelchair/buggy where it was able to recover from a broken back. The koala named Alfie even had a cup holder for its eucalyptus!!! It was a great day with lots to learn and it shows that Steve wasn't just a crazy man but actually did a whole lot of good for all sorts of wildlife.
Finally we had to hand the camper back over in Brisbane. A sad day after an adventurous three weeks but on to the next stop on the West coast....Geraldton. After 3 months off it was time to top up the bank balance. We arrived in Geraldton after a 6 hour coach journey from Perth and nothing could wipe the smile of our faces as the sun was shining finally! Jana met us at the station and took us to our new home for the next 5 weeks. The house would have fallen apart had their been a huge gust of wind! Back to bunk beds, there was three of us again in a room. Some of the mattresses were made up with cushions and we had a few resident cockroaches. Needless to say it was an interesting abode. The shower was shared with snails and the kitchen was home to near on a million ants. This did not deter us as finally we were dry and the weather was great :-)
After relentless CV handing out sessions, Jonny and I managed to secure jobs. During the day I was working at 'Wendy's' an ice cream store which also sold milk shakes, donuts and hotdogs. It was hell for my diet and it wasn't long until I was enjoying the most amazing milk shakes on a regular basis. Jonny was working in a local pub called the Freemasons where I also picked up casual work in the evenings. The pub was far from any pub we have visited in the UK with the majority of customers being slightly backwards and having numerous wife's in Bali who were at least 30 years younger than them. The staff we worked with were lovely and we enjoyed having our 'staffies' (free staff drink) every night and getting to know everyone.
Geraldton itself was a bit of an odd place. Some parts were really nice and others were a bit trashy. One night Jonny and I were cycling home after work and some aboriginal people tried to chase us to try and steal our bikes but thankfully they were so drunk they could barely walk. It was a shame to leave after such a short space of time, having made some good friends but we had to begin our car journey across the length of Australia to meet up with our parents. Sean will fill you in on the shenanigans of the crossing. A blog not to be missed...
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