Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Show Up, Breathe and Surrender

Father, please forgive me, as it has been several days since I last had access to Wifi.

The past two days went by in a blur of closed roads, thick air and mosquitoes.

Rising early on Tuesday morning I had a quick international chat with my father, who evidently cannot do math and thought a 4:45am phone call was totally appropriate. This allowed me to finish up some work, eat a free carbolicious breakfast, and check out of Bunk all before 10am. 
Ever since I was a little girl I have dreamed of visiting the Great Barrier Reef, and with it just a few short hours away, Jacks and I were determined to get there - no matter what the locals said! We had originally planned on heading out to Mt. Isa, an old mining town that is evidently authentic outback, but with all of the roads closed we were advised not to do so. The Amsterdamers from the night before were headed to Noosa, a small beach town up the coast from Brisbane, and that sounded ok with us, so north we headed.

Noosa was a fairly painless drive, with stops at both Steve Irwin's Australia Zoo and the Glass House Mountains along the way. I had not been to a zoo in many moons, and the open floor plan was greatly appreciated as I got to pet both koalas and kangaroos. Kangaroos may be my new favorite animal, with their lassez faire attitude and beautiful, doe-like faces. Good thing we got to touch the animals, because with a $60 entrance fee I should have expected a red carpet and an enclosure dedicated to my memory. Everybody says Australia is expensive, but its kind of like when you're a kid and you're parents tell you not to touch the stove, because its hot - so, of course - you touch it just to make sure. Well, the hefty price tag associated with the land down under is true. And my hand is burned.

Along the tourist motorway just past the zoo, are the Glass House Mountains, a series of wooded hills formed from some sort of historic volcanic happening. I would know more, but I have never really been the kind of girl to read the placards, so I enjoyed the breeze, took a couple of shots, and moved on.

Once in Noosa a sense of familiarity washed over me. Attractive Caucasian from Brisbane, or Clark Kent as Jackie and I have named him - mentioned that Australia is just like California, and as we rolled into the high priced, LuLu Lemon inspired beach town of Noosa, the smell of La Jolla or Laguna Niguel filled my nasal passages. Don't get me wrong, the beach was beautiful and laying in the warm breeze watching a surf school is a lovely way to spend an afternoon, but when its also available mere hours from your hometown, it can be a bit disappointing.

With my sights set on the GBR, I suggested we make our way as far North as possible, which led us on this beautifully scenic sunset drive to Gimpy, a town as beautiful as it's name. 

Gimpy, as one of the natives informed us, is a hillbilly town. We were able to locate some sort of outdoor arena for a team of undetermined purpose and a bar/restaurant/casino which housed the town drunkards who did not seem to mind at all that I had spent all day patronizing establishments sans pants, taking the barefoot attitude down here to a whole new level. Don't worry - I was wearing bathing suit bottoms. The Susan Powter bar keep had bad news for us - Gimpy and the surrounding areas had been hit hard by the 2013 cyclone and our passageway North was unlikely if not impossible. This was disheartening to say the least. We were at a loss of what to do and with our internal clocks still off by a good number of hours, we were exhausted.

So exhausted that we decided, at 8:30 pm to call it a night by cuddling up in the front seat of our economy vehicle and sleeping in our bathingsuits in the parking lot of said Casino hybrid. Sometimes I wonder if I am too old for this shit.

A combination of early morning wildlife chatter and a senior special bedtime led me to wake before dawn, take a leak in a public parking lot, brush my teeth with a bottle of water, and start a new day. ABC radio was no more promising than the night before and Jackie and I realized unless we wanted to star in our own quirky indie film by spending the week in this small backwoods town waiting for the waters to recede, we had to make a move. And the move was South.

This leg of the road trip offered me new insight into who I am. A) I am the kind of girl who will unapologetically walk into an AMP to order breakfast pantless and disheveled. B) I am the kind of girl who should ask questions before ordering overpriced breakfast menu items, as BBQ sauce is a staple here and C) I am the kind of girl who has started to find Rihanna songs prophetic.

Yes, the last one is disturbing to me as well. Taking turns driving on this portion back through Brisbane and further South I couldn't help but pay attention to the largely 90s based playlist on the radio and wonder why every song is about love. When nursing a broken heart the full length version of Guns and Roses 'November Rain' is equivalent to Chinese water torture and one's poor travelmate soon finds out that the waterworks can be triggered by nearly anything.

Moving on, when we rolled into the town Lonely Planet described as a hippie little town with holistic medicine an practices available, I once again was reminded of home as this could also most certainly be the Santa Cruz of Australia. Luckily I've always loved the central coast so Byron Bay was a welcomed stop.

After securing 2 beds in dorm room 24 at Aquarius backpackers, which sold us on free dinner and wifi only to later realize those were not entirely true, we ran to the beach to relax for a bit. 45 minutes on the beach and some parts of my body are red! I'm not sure if it's the ozone depleting or if the sun is on steriods down here, but my face has already aged 10 years, and I've been here less than a week.

Having done beach to parking lot accomodation to beach we were sufficiently disgusting and figured, what better way to bask in the glory of our filth than hit up the 6 pm Bikram Yoga class. A class, I might add did not have to humidify the room- because it is just that hot and sticky here! After burning out my retnas for 90 minutes with the salty sweat dripping from my brow the heavens opened up once again and to avoid the wet walk home, we were offered a ride from one of our fellow students, Jess- a musician. Luckily this lift allowed us to return to the hostel just in time for their 'free with purchase' dinner that looked like Gerber's for grownups but was happily digested after a long day of travel and sweat.

Back at the Aquarius we took a much needed shower, dressed in a room of Swedish 21 year olds and headed to the local cafe that will sell you a can of something they call lemonade for $3.50 but allow you to access their wifi in exchange- so it was basically heaven.

An hour of Internet time quenched my thirst and it was off to bed at 11 in an attempt to finally coordinate with the correct time zone.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Cloudy with a Chance of Skin Cancer

My first real day in Australia started early to say the least. Awake at 6 am not knowing which was is up Jackie and I prepared for the day, anxiously awaiting the free breakfast included in so many hostels' packages, and were ready to hit the road. Not sure where to exactly - we were game for anything, as the weather had seemed to clear up, at least a bit. Of course front desk bottle ginger and and front desk natural ginger quickly extinguished those dreams, explaining that roads all over Queensland were shut down due to the cyclone that was apparently not yet done with us. So, I did what any god-fearing American woman would do - I carb'd up and immediately purchased WiFi so I could play on my phone.

We quickly claimed prime real estate, located in the corner of a L shaped couch that has for sure seen better, if not more hygienic days, right next to the only functioning outlet in the lobby of Bunk Backpackers. This is where we set up shop for a couple early morning hours of work, web surfing and watching post adolescents discover who they are through travel and sexual experimentation right before our very eyes. Feeling I had gotten my fill of culture in what could only be called a communal living room we noticed the clouds had parted, and were not sure for how long, so we booked it out of there with a map in hand determined to see what Brisbane had to offer.

A very helpful woman at the front desk had made note of some points of interest, so Jackie and I set forth on foot to tackle each circle on the map.

Walking straight down Ann Road led us to Queen's Street Mall, which is apparently the hot spot for shopping in Brisbane. It resembles the K street mall in Sacramento with heftier price tags and more tourist trappings, but it was nice weather so we were happy to peer into the windows of stores meant to attract juniors in high school with a penchant for spandex - little did they know that camo skirt and crop top had my name written all over it! Unfortunately, being at the start of this expensive sojourn, no shopping was taking place, so we quickly moved down to the water, crossing over Victoria Bridge toward South Bank. We had seen South Bank via car the day before - but once the rain subsided it became apparent that Brisbane is not a ghost town of puddles and broken tree branches, people actually do live here.

Due to the weather the Queensland Museum Art Gallery closed, but the Science museum, featuring dinosaurs and fashion designers (strange, right?) was open, and free, so Jackie and I took a look around before heading to Boundary and Vulture, which had been described as an 'alternative' neighborhood. Turns out alternative simply means you can find patchouli perfume and gluten free menu options. More Aussie fashions lined the street, calling out my name, but I persevered and instead headed to the Roma Street Parkland, which had been suggested over the Botanic Gardens.

A sweet little park in the middle of the city, Roma Street Parkland is situated just above some judicial buildings and offers a Stairway of Knowledge that I felt needed to be mounted, as I can use all the help I can get these days. Strangely enough, the stairway consisted of only a handful of steps, so I am not sure if that means I did not ascertain the hearty amount of knowledge of which I am in need, or if each step is concentrated, like the frozen cans of orange juice you keep in the freezer. Regardless we wandered around the quiet park in the balmy afternoon, only to make our way back to hostel, with a quick stop to pick up the latest 1% sugar Mango Slurpee featured at any of the 100 million 7/11s located in this fine glorified town.

Back at the hostel Jackie made friends with some Dutch boys while I slipped into emo mode, deciding to go on a run in the rain to clear my head and tone my ass. Not sure either worked, but when I returned Jackie's posse had expanded to a group of adoring men, one of whom was an American from California who was not only attractive - but Caucasian. Crazy, I know. Luckily not too far into the conversation I announced I don't like white people (trust me, out of context it makes WAY less sense) to which Amsterdamer #1 replied - Go Obama! Oh, there are moments I am so proud to be an American. Especially the type that makes ridiculous declarations in mixed company.

Having shot something shortly before skipping town, my night consisted of editing film and watching the equivalent of the spinning ball of death on my computer screen, trying to will the images to upload more quickly with the spotty, yet overpriced WiFi offered in the hostel lobby. Unsuccessful, I made my way upstairs and quickly fell asleep, only to be awoken by Jackie coming home from a hostel outing and then again at 4am - man, this jet lag really is a bitch!

With limited funds, temperamental weather and closed roads, there really is no telling where we will head next!