After Fraser Island, we slept a lot. We napped and we slept in and we luxuriated in the fact of having a real actual bed and not a roll mat on the sand.
I should probably explain that since Fraser, ‘we’ no longer refers to the three of us. ‘We’ is now our extended family of six.
Allie, Emma and Hillary are three 25 year old Canadians from a province called Prince Edward Island, which I had never heard of before, but have now been convinced is the best place in Canada. Invitations have already been extended, which I will unashamedly be accepting whenever I get round to visiting Canada. We all get on like a house on fire, even when the intellectual level of conversation is reduced to ‘so what do you call this in Canada?’ or ‘do you have these in Canada?’ It’s been about two weeks since we met, and we all already spend half the time speaking in each other’s’ accents.
We moved onto Noosa together and checked into probably the best hostel we’ve stayed in so far, recommended by one of the girls we met on Fraser. Admittedly it also cost more than any other hostel we’ve been to yet, but as we had discount vouchers from Greyhound we could still kid ourselves that we were making a good economic decision. And everyone needs to stay somewhere beautiful once in a while.
The Rainforest Room in Noosa YHA was our new home, and it was just as magical as it sounds. Out the back was a balcony which looked directly on to the rainforest. Unfortunately, this did made hanging out your wet bikini a bit of a stress: nobody wants to lose a bikini to the forest floor. Though a 16-bed dorm, which initially inspired nightmarish thoughts of a clothes-strewn floor and dense, sweaty air, it was actually the most spacious room we’ve had.
The beach was about 100m down the road from the hostel, and the national park a five minute walk beyond that. It was awesome.
If you asked me what we did in Noosa, though, I’m not sure I’d be able to tell you very accurately. We didn’t go to the beach really, except one night with some people who worked at the hostel. We didn’t go to see the Everglades, which is probably the number one result for Noosa in Google. We went for a walk in the national park, but only a short-lived one, because we set off too late to make it all the way round before dark.
To be honest I think we needed to chill out for a few days. Fraser Island was hectic, with long sunny days (barring the last), early mornings and lots of alcohol. So Noosa was a much needed break.
That’s not to say we didn’t do anything there. The first night of our arrival we just had to go out, because it was Monday Madness – apparently the one decent night out in Noosa. It would have been silly to miss that.
It was unfortunate that the big night in Noosa, at a place called Sogo’s, was actually quite terrible.
We had a great time, don’t get me wrong. But that was in spite of the awful DJ who had no sense of rhythm, the speakers which were quiet enough that you could have a normal conversation over them, and the sticky, sweaty dance floor. It’s lucky that we are dancers of such high calibre, really, or the night might have been a total flop.
Safe to say, we were sufficiently hungover the next day. Hence why we didn’t make it all the way around the coastal walk.
However, I would still consider the walk a success. The rumours of koalas frequenting the route were proven correct within minutes. Allie and I were walking along, scanning the trees, when we were interrupted by an old Aussie guy with binoculars. Imagine a stereotype of an Australian and you’ve pretty much got it pictured. He practically had a hat with dangly corks.
“You guys looking for koalas?”
“There’s one just up there.”
So that was pretty successful.
When we got to Hell’s Gates, the end of our trail for the day, we spotted some whales too. I guess in some ways Hell’s Gate was an appropriate name – for Phea at least.
We did have a pretty amazing day the next day, Wednesday. We caught the bus to Eumundi markets and spent the whole morning shopping (or browsing, in most cases), and had the best lunch from various street food stalls. I took full advantage of all the free samples that were going around. Naturally.
It was a very tiring morning though, so more napping was needed by the time we got back from the hostel. And I still didn’t take advantage of the free surfboards that they had at the hostel. Sigh.
The next morning, though, I was determined to actually get up and out of bed and do something. I woke up bright and early and went down to the beach to take a look at the surf. There was none. Oh well, I thought – I’ll go for a run instead. That way I get to explore a bit more of the national park AND do some actual exercise.
I donned my running gear and set off. I was aiming for a short walking track that I’d seen on the map the day before: it looked very manageable, only about a kilometre long. I jogged along to the entry to the national park, found the trail denoted by a green sign, and off I went.
Ten minutes later, I was confused. The track was hilly and interlaced with branches and rocks, but even with that in mind, it shouldn’t take ten minutes to run a kilometre. I carried on, and a couple of minutes later I found out what had happened. I came across a sign: ‘Tangled Trees track, 4.2km’.
I was on the wrong route.
I continued along anyway, thinking that at some point I’d probably find my way back to where I wanted to be – but knowing full well that I didn’t want to run another 4k. Especially not in the Australian heat. Even more especially when I knew I had to be back at the hostel by half 9 at the latest, so I could pack and check out by 10.
I followed a sign that said ‘Park Edge Road, 1.5km’ for long enough to then realise that this was very much not the right way. I came to the peak of a hill, and through the trees I could see a vast swathe of the national park, and in the far distance, the sea. Bear in mind that the sea is right next to the hostel, and the hostel is what I was aiming for.
I tried following another sign, and came across some houses, which I thought might be a positive sign, but unless I was willing to climb over fences and through back gardens, there was no way to know what was on the other side of them. A dog started barking ferociously, and I fairly quickly made the decision to backtrack.
So, back I went, retracing my steps the whole sweaty way. Back up the sandy track, picking my way through rocks and branches, back along the undulating forest hills. As I went I had visions of myself collapsing from heatstroke, being eaten by dingoes, bitten by a snake or getting deliriously lost and wandering the park til I died of starvation.
Long story short, I made it back. I had just enough time to shove all my possessions into my bag before the 10 o clock checkout, and even snuck in a super quick shower to rinse off the sweat that was running off me in rivulets. Phew.
We had a couple of hours to kill before the bus, but we spent them lazing around the common, some of us recovering from a few too many beachside beers the night before.
We left with plenty of time to spare before the bus, but just as the Greyhound pulled around the corner, Hillary had the unwelcome realisation that she’d left her iPad and wallet in a locker in the hostel room. Oops. We flapped for a while, trying to decide whether to just wait around for the next bus, or to split up and have half the group wait with Hil and half head to Brisbane. In a flash of inspiration, we called the hostel and asked for one of the boys from the beach the night before to drive the stuff down to the bus station.
We pleaded with the bus driver to wait five minutes for our rescuer to arrive. He ummed and ahhed for a while. He pointed out that he was on a schedule, that he was already late, that he couldn’t make a whole busfull of people wait for a group of daft girls (my words, not his). We loaded up our bags slowly, knowing that the valuables were on their way in the hostel van. We queued up to board the bus, faffing with IDs, dragging out the seconds. And then, as we were getting settled, at the very last second, Tom from the hostel clambered up the front steps, iPad and wallet held triumphantly in his hand.
It was a glorious moment.
They were handed over, and off we went to Brisbane.
The hostel we’d booked for Brisbane was called Somewhere to Stay, and wasn’t our first choice. The booking had been hastily made, and in many ways this led to expected outcomes. We arrived and we weren’t in a room together, the rooms stank of boys (read: farts and sweat) and the whole place smelled of cats, the wifi wasn’t free and there was one meagre fan for the whole dorm. As Annie pointed out, it really lived up to its name: it was just somewhere to stay.
However, the situation was soon rectified, at least marginally. We sat around being grumpy for a while, and then the lovely manager came and offered us a 6-bed room for the same price as the 10-bed dorm. It had an en-suite, the air smelled merely stale and not actively offensive, and most importantly, we were all together.
It was another triumph for the damsels in distress. We ended up staying there for the four nights we’d initially booked, just because it was easier than checking out and going somewhere else. And we had our own room.
We’d heard that Brisbane didn’t have much to it; that it was hardly worth staying there more than a few days. We stayed for five nights in total, and pretty much concluded the same.
That said, it was our first big city, which made a nice change from small beachside town to small beachside town. It was weird to be somewhere with properly tarmacked streets and skyscrapers, and not to be able to walk from one side to the other in half an hour. It was refreshing to be somewhere different, but still I missed the small-town beach vibe.
There was still plenty to fill up our time, though. For a start, we hadn’t been anywhere with a proper shopping mall in forever. So that was a day (and money) well spent. We also spent a very enjoyable few hours wandering around Queensland art gallery and museum. It’s nice to pretend we are cultured once in a while. Many, many hours were also spent sat on the free City Hopper boat up and down the river, mainly just for the ride. We just can’t resist free stuff.
The main event of our time in Brisbane, though, was Halloween. I’ve never been much of a fan of this holiday myself – what with my being inexplicably scared of face paint – but as we are travelling with three Canadians, celebration in style could not be avoided. Hillary in particular seemed to be as excited about Halloween as I would be about Christmas: much of the days before and after were spent discussing people’s costumes from home.
We spent a long while deliberating on what we should dress up as: we needed a group theme, of course. Several ideas were tossed around: the cast of Friends, for one; different incarnations of Britney Spears another. Eventually we settled on going as the cast of Bridesmaids, more for the ease of shopping than anything else.
It was slightly stressful trying to find even hilariously ugly bridesmaid outfits appropriate to a backpacker budget, but we did manage it in the end – complete with bouquets, and a veil for Annie, the bride. Even I got caught up in the hype, and was excited to try out our costumes. The hostel was having a free barbecue to celebrate Halloween night, so we were looking forward to our grand entrance and seeing what everyone else dressed as.
Unfortunately, it ended up a bit like that bad dream you have as a kid where you’ve got the wrong day for fancy dress day: basically nobody else was in costume. So our grand entrance was more like an awkward shuffle towards the queue for burgers. Quite a few people seemed to think that we were legitimately a bridal party and not just in fancy dress: one girl offered to take our ‘wedding photos’ for us and spent half an hour directing us towards the best backdrop and lighting spots.
It was a bit of a strange night. Halloween is apparently not much of a thing in Australia. Annie was outraged that people would genuinely believe that she had got married in the horrendous dress she was wearing. Nonetheless, we still succeeded in having a fun night, even though once we split from each other among the crowd we no longer looked like we were in costume; more like we just had terrible dress sense.
Our final day in Brisbane was spent checking out the Valley Fiesta music festival, which happened to be on while we were there. Admittedly it was a very small scale ‘festival’, spanning just a couple of back streets. Regardless, it was a nice way to spend an afternoon: watching some live music and browsing market stalls.
We departed the next day, miraculously without anyone leaving possessions at the hostel, and headed towards the Gold Coast and Surfer’s Paradise. Next time, I’ll let you know whether it lives up to its name. (We’ve been here nearly three days and so far not surfed once).