“I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers”

Monday May 16

I woke up at 6:45am to check out of the hostel in Byron Bay (YHA) to catch the Oz Experience bus to Brisbane. Our bus driver stopped off at Surfers Paradise (its name gives it the perfect description) for a short break.

We also quickly stopped at the boarder between New South Wales and Queensland, where we were able to step on either side of the provinces (/states?).
Ian and I only had the day in Brisbane, and once we were dropped off we stored our luggage at the transit center. Unsure of the area, we grabbed a coffee and a map and started to explore. We were immediately drawn to a cute little hippie music store that reminded me of a store back home called Grasshopper. Filled with Tibetan flags, incense, and instruments, we chatted it up with the fellow who worked there, Garreth. He was so passionate about the store and its instruments, and played a few beats for us on the djembe and other types of drums I’ve never even heard of. Asking him where to go for the day, he drew us a little route over a bridge and into a nice scenic park.

Ian and I adventured on with a destination in mind. We got over the bridge and started to feel some rain drops, which turned into pouring rain. We took cover in an Art Museum for about 10 minutes, and then turned around and decided the park wasn’t the best idea (as it looked like it was going to pour again). We were getting hungry, and I was drawn to a Salad Sensations Café. I placed my order with the sweetest, most cheerful lad. He instantly made my day as he was a genuinely friendly person.

Grinning as I ate my delicious salad filled with mixed greens, corn, mushrooms, hard-boiled eggs, cheese, cucumber, mushrooms, and a Thai sauce, I noticed the friendly lad who served me was sipping coffee right behind me! He had just finished work and we started up a conversation with each other.  I soon figured out his named was Roger. Roger was a former schoolteacher, 35, just finished work at the café, and from New Zealand. Eventually Ian and I found ourselves sitting at his table with his fellow employees: a man from Turkey (just learning English) and a woman from Germany.

After talking for an hour or two, Ian and I explained to Roger how we were somewhat homeless for the next couple hours, as we were catching a flight to Cairns in the evening. He offered to take us back to the park where we originally wanted to go, as he was on his way to the movies in that direction anyway. Roger was a sweetheart; I got good vibes from him, and we instantly connected.
We walked back over the bridge and just as we were entering the park we spotted some Ferries that acted as taxi’s zig-zagging across the river. Roger got just as, if not more excited then I did, and explained how this is would be a great way to see the beauty of the city in the few hours we had left. The weather had cleared up, and Roger said he’d even jump on the ferry with us. So the three of us hopped on for about an hour and sailed along the river as the sun was about to set. Roger was so very intelligent, and he would point out anything exciting he felt we should know about Brisbane. We all got to all know each other very well, talking about our travels, love lives, favourite movies and books.
 A “stop and think” moment occurred today. As the three of us were looking out at the city on the ferry and the sun shined through the clouds, Roger sang in the background. I couldn’t help but smile… everything was just so beautiful. Roger totally went out of his way today to take Ian and I under his wing. Roger was a breath of fresh air. It is so refreshing to meet strangers who come out of nowhere and are so kind. Before we knew it, it was almost 5pm and Ian and I needed to start heading back to the transit center. After flipping a coin of whether or not we should exchange Facebook names with Roger (heads = exchange names, tails = leave it as it is and just remember the moments we shared together), the coin landed on heads, and we exchanged names.
Roger impacted me so much today. Looking back, I had realized some very important factors of my day. I realized that if Ian and I had not stopped in the music/hippe store, we would have never been told to go to the park by Garreth. If it had not rained, then Ian and I would have never turned around to grab food and shelter. In doing so, I wouldn’t have stopped at Salad Sensations and met Roger. Ian and I were somewhat lost at the beginning of the day today, but once we met Roger, we felt found.

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Spending the day in Byron Bay

Sunday May 15

Our itinerary allowed for Ian and I to have all the freedom in the world to explore Byron Bay our own way! Having been exhausted from the past two days of surfing, we slept in and journeyed out towards the lighthouse (the most eastern part of Australia!) around noon.
 Apparently there are two ways to get to the lighthouse – the easy way, or the hard way. Ian and I were somewhat forced to take the hard way (the easy way was closed off), which was basically like working out on the Stairmaster at the gym. It was beautiful non-the-less, but I won’t lie, I broke a sweat while walking in my Birkenstocks.

After hiking for about an hour, we spotted the lighthouse!

The scenery was exactly what Google images put it out to be – absolutely stunning. The waves were crashing into the rocks, and the little white lighthouse sat on top of the mountain. The beach was full of surfers, and the clouds gave break to the beautiful sun.
Ian and I ventured inside of the lighthouse (we couldn’t go up at the top) and grabbed a snack for a little break. We walked down to the very tip – THE most eastern part of Australia.


It is so hard to explain its beauty in words; you simply just have to go see it yourself.

We then met up with two Canadian girls we had met the day before on our bus to Byron, and walked home with them along the beach just as the sun was setting.

We arrived back at our hostel and we were pretty glad about our timing because it started pouring rain! We waited for the rain to cease, and then walked two minutes to a Sushi restaurant (we have both been craving Sushi since we got here) for dinner. Can’t wait for more adventures tomorrow!

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Surfing with blue skies and butterflies

** NOTE: Pics of me SURFING to come soon!!!!

On Thursday May 12 I spent 10 hours in a bus traveling to “Spot X” where I would spend the next two nights at Mojo Surf School, (www.mojosurf.com) located off of Coffs Harbor. 

Ian and I arrived at the surf camp at 4pm, taking it easy and receiving a tour of the camp followed by a delicious dinner (all meals were included with our 2 Night “Stay and Play” Package) and relaxing by the fire. It was a hot and sunny day at surf camp, but come nightfall it was absolutely FREEZING! I felt like I had never been so cold in my life. Apparently it dropped to about 3 degrees, which explains why I was constantly shaking throughout the night in my trailer-like accommodation.

I woke up the next morning (Friday May 13) at 7am to be out and surfing for 8am. Our small group of about 7 slowly put on our damp, cold wetsuits and carried our surfboards to the beach. It was another beautiful day, and as I was walking in my wetsuit across the beach with the sun shining while carrying my board and my beach hair flowing in the wind – I actually felt like a surfer, and I won’t lie, I felt so cool.


Our surf instructor, Rai, taught us the basic rules of surfing: how to pick out the good waves, how to get up on your surf board, how to balance and stay on the board, and what to do if you get sucked under a wave…

At first I was so stoked for surf, but then after learning so much in 10 minutes I was SO nervous. Before I knew I we were walking into the ocean with our boards and searching for sweet waves to ride. As I looked up, the sky was so blue and I could see some butterflies flying around above us. We even spotted some dolphins swimming in the distance!!! It was so beautiful, and in that moment I knew I was ready to surf.

Believe it or not, I actually got up on my board several times! The waves were perfect and I was so proud of myself because I was actually doing a good job! I couldn’t believe it (I’m NOT athletic what-so-ever). I got up on my board and surfed at almost every attempt.

The following day (Saturday May 14) we surfed at 9am. I was confident and ready to take on the waters, however the waves today were not as good as yesterdays. Our group consisted of people who had 1 previous surfing lesson (me) to those who had 7 surfing lessons. Our surf instructor today, Maddi, said the waves were “dumping” and sucking under instead of flowing, so every time any of us would try to get on our board it was a complete fail. A few people with more experience got up, but most of us only got on our board a few times. It was pretty exhausting and kind of frustrating (thinking I would be better today then yesterday), but it all had to do with the current weather and the time of day.

I’m super proud of myself for being able to surf and giving it all I had! It was such a cool experience and everyone needs to try to surf at least once in their life!

But let me tell you… I woke up this morning (Sunday May 15) so incredibly sore. My poor, poor body.

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Surfs Up!

Just wanted to apologize for not updating my blog for the past two days. Instead of surfing the internet, I’ve been too busy surfing the waves at Spot X!

And to all of those who are commenting on my grammar… I urge you to write blogs everynight after an exhausting day with horrible internet reception (paying 6 Australian dollars an hour for internet use) and to upload photos which takes about 10 min per photo.

Hope that is understandable. I’ll be posting my adventure stories & pics as soon as I can!

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Gotta love my Three Sisters!

Wednesday May 11

I have been living without my iPhone because I recently forgot it on a bus in Melbourne. Luckily, it’s in good hands, however I won’t be getting it back until next week (when I head up to Cairns, so around May 16). I’ve realized that it’s not so much the texting I miss, or being able to take pictures, it’s the alarm clock.

So that’s when my iPod comes in handy. I’ve managed to figure out that iPods have an alarm clock, and so I’ve been using that to wake up. With this being said, I set my alarm this morning for 6:30, as Ian and I needed to meet up at the Oz Experience office (3 minutes around the corner from the hostel) for 7am. I wake up this morning to voices outside my door, clearly coming from guests in the other room, and I decided to check out the time on my iPod.

7:07am.

I don’t think I’ve ever jumped out of bed in my life. I knew that if Ian and I didn’t make it to the office in time then we would miss our bus up to the Blue Mountains, which was one of my most anticipated journeys of this entire trip!

I threw on my clothes, grabbed my toothbrush and paste, and ran out the door. Ian and I made it onto the bus, even with some spare minutes to grab a much-needed coffee. I brushed my teeth at the next washroom stop at a public park (..eww).

That was my morning! Fortunately my luck turned around. The bus we hopped on held our tour group for the day. The bus was full, with about 12 people, all very friendly. Our tour guide, Jason, was full of energy and a strange but hilarious sense of humor.

We left Sydney at headed up to the Blue Mountains (they are called the “Blue Mountains” because the Eucalyptus trees cover the mountains, releasing an oil in the air which in the sunlight turns blue). About 45 minutes in we stopped by a nature park to see if we could spot any wild Eastern Grey Kangaroos. At first it seemed like we weren’t going to be lucky, but then we spotted 4 of them munching out! Keeping a good distance (30 feet), we observed the beautiful animals in their natural habitat. Just as we were learning as to why kangaroos “box” (males fighting for power), two males started a match!!! We were all stunned as we watched two kanga’s go at it for about 10 minutes! How amazing!

Driving about another 45 minutes, we stopped at Wentworth Falls.
 
Since we were now highly elevated, it was pretty darn cold and bloody windy! Even us (Ian & I) Canadians started to shiver! We hiked and explored the gorgeous land and because it was so windy, the water from the waterfall actually started traveling up and above the waterfall, where we were walking around (getting us a wee bit wet)! The combination of the cool temperatures, the crazy wind, and being wet doesn’t sound too pleasant (and for a moment it wasn’t), but I had to remember that I WOULD ONLY PROBABLY BE HERE ONCE and to suck it up and just relax, enjoy, and take everything in. As I looked over the edge, I was so fascinated by the wind. It was so powerful….pretty darn cold, but the feeling of it on my cheeks made me feel so alive. I stuck my hands out and let the wind push my arms up as if I were flying. It was definitely a stop and think moment.

After lunch we hiked down the historic Furber Stairs (all 860 of them!) into Jamison Valley through the lush rainforest where we were able to see….

The Three Sisters!!!!!!!!!!!

I had been anticipating this moment for quiet some time now, as it is a huge landmark of Aussie. It was everything it looked like in the pictures (except waaaay better in real life, obviously). The sun was shining and suddenly we forgot about how chilly it was. Journeying on, we spent a good hour traveling around and getting different views of the Three Sisters.

To get back UP the mountain, we had tickets to board the Scenic Railway (not the roller coaster I rode in Luna Park –  the REAL scenic railway), which is the steepest railway in the world. However, by jetting backwards up the mountain, I felt like I was on some kind of roller coaster!!

After an action-packed day, the bus drove us back to our hostel in Sydney for 6pm. I headed straight up to my room for a hot shower followed by dinner in the hostels small restaurant. I sure am tuckered out, and I have to be up by 5:00am tomorrow morning… lets pray that my alarm goes off this time!

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Sunshine, Sharks, and the Sydney Opera House

Tuesday May 10

Yesterday, Ian and I flew to Sydney. The flight was short, about two hours, and we spent the day walking around and shopping until we got rained on. We are staying at yet another great hostel, YHA Australia. Today was a beautiful day in Sydney. Ian and I were able to choose 1 out of 3 packages, courtesy of Tourism Australia. Out of a jet boat ride, a bus tour, or a 4 adventure package to the aquariums, wildlife world and the Sydney Tower, we chose the 4 adventure package.  Our 4 adventures today included:

1. Sydney Ocean World: Ian and I walked from our hostel at YHA Australia to an aquarium filled with sharks, gigantic sea turtles, fish, platypi, and stingrays (to name a few). It was such a neat experience as we were underground and we could watch as all the amazing creatures swam above us.

2. Sydney Wildlife World: Located right beside Ocean World, Sydney Wildlife World had a variety of animals such as red kangaroos, koala bears, wombats, crocs, and a bajillion other Aussie animals. I won’t lie, Ian and I had nothin’ on this as we were able to hang out with the coolest animals the other day instead of just looking at them through a glass wall. It was neat non-the-less!

3. Manly Ocean World: The best part of this adventure was getting to manly, which is an island off of Sydney harbor. Ian and had to take a ferry there, which ended up being my favourite part of the day. As soon as we got to the ferry station, I soon realized where we were… and there it was…

THE SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE!!!!

And how beautiful she was. We took some time to chill by the harbor and look across at the landmark. It was definitely a “Oh my god I’m in Australia” moment. As the sun shined down, we hopped aboard our $12 round-trip ferry and sailed by the Sydney Harbor Bridge and was able to view all angles of the Sydney Opera House. Manly Ocean World was basically the exact same thing as Sydney Ocean World, except people are able to practice scuba diving in the aquariums. We witnessed some people practicing their dives!

4. Sydney Tower: After visiting the Eureka Tower in Melbourne, Ian and I felt like pro’s as we lifted up to the Sydney Tower. We planned this adventure last, so that it would be nighttime when we got up there. They city glowed with lights and we were able to see a smidget of the Opera House in our view.

Ian and I walked all the way back to our hostel. We avoided taking public transportation today, as we had the entire day to explore and enjoyed walking around the city. We were out and about from 10am – 6pm, so by the time we got in we were pretty tired out. We have to get up at 6am tomorrow for more adventures, so off to bed I go!

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Koalas! Penguins! Kangaroos! Oh my!

Sunday May 8

Tourism Australia had scheduled Ian and I to be picked up by Autopia/Eco Platypus Tours at noon for a day trip to Maru and the Penguin Parade at Phillip Island. My friend Kerri joined us, and booked her spot on the bus a few weeks before hand. Before embarking on the adventure, I wasn’t sure what exactly we were doing today. However, Kerri informed me that Maru was a Wildlife Park that hosted animals such as koala bears, kangaroos, wallabies (a smaller version of a kangaroo), Tasmanian devils, and dingoes!!!! Upon hearing this… I started to get really excited, and anxiously remained patient during the one-hour bus ride to Maru.

Our tour group was very small, with a total of 7 people, which was awesome because we all got to stick together and become friends. As soon as we got there, Ian, Kerri, and I bought food (carrots and this grass stuff) for the animals so that they would be attracted to us. As soon as we entered the park we were greeted by the cute, sleepy Koala bears sleeping right above us!!!! We were informed that Koalas sleep for about 20 hours of the day, and that they only eat eucalyptus leaves, containing a specific oil that make the koala so sleepy. I learnt that koalas’ intestines are 6.5 feet long, which makes the koala able to digest the oily leaves. Sully was the Koala that Kerri and I were able to pet, feed, and get pictures with. I feel in love with his old-man face and extremely fuzzy fur. Sully munched out his eucalyptus leaves as Kerri and I snapped photos of the cute lil guy.

Kerri and I got a little caught up while cuddling with Sully, and had forgotten that the kangaroos were just around the corner!

As soon as we remembered we grabbed our carrots and grass and hopped over to the magnificent creatures….

…. and there they were.

The wallabies & kangaroos were even better then I imagined them to be. They were absolutely beautiful and so friendly (I’m sure the food helped! + they are used to humans). The wallabies were simply adorable; their noses were like those of a dog, except way more cute. I was hesitant to pet one at first, but I just decided to go for it. After petting it I ended up hugging them and they actually loved being scratched! I totally got right in there and soaked up the incredible moment I had been anxiously waiting for years. Their claws weren’t sharp, but they were huge, and when they grabbed onto me I had to apply some strength to keep my hands up. They are very strong! Some of them got a little too excited about the carrots and start nibbling on my fingers, which I won’t lie hurt a tad, but not as bad as I expected!

The bigger kangaroos, however, were kind of scary. They way they moved was freaky and their huge arms were a little intimidating, but I loved them (with an extra bit of courage) non-the less.

Being so preoccupied with feeding the kangaroos and touching their adorable noses, I never really thought about looking down in their pouch area… and that’s when I saw it…and I freaked out of pure forgetfulness and surprise…

A BABY KANGAROO WAS IN HIS MAMA’S POUCH JUST CHILLIN!!!!!!!!

WHAT!!!!??!?!?! Hiiiii… sooooo amazing. Snapping a picture was difficult, so I’m really happy one of us did. I wanted to touch the little guy so badly, but I put myself in the Mama Roo’s shoes and decided I wouldn’t want strange humans touching my baby in my pouch either.

 I cannot describe my love for these creatures!!!!! The experience of hanging with the roo’s was so absolutely amazing. I’m getting goose bumps just thinking about it. If you ever have a chance to go to Australia, go. I’m on my 5th day in and it’s already everything everyone says it is.

As much as I wanted to stay and hang with the roo’s, our trip had to continue to go watch the Penguin Parade!!! After checking out the dingoes (mix of dog and fox), I washed my hands and feet (bad mistake wearing sandals, as the kanga’s stepped all over me!) and hopped back onto the bus with the group.

After stopping for dinner at a local restaurant for pizza and a beer, we were off to see the fairy penguins! The sun was still shining, and we went and explored the land towering above the beach.

…….and holy Hannah, it was beautiful.

The mountainous land with covered in a thick, moss-like, small-leaved grass. The sky was so blue and I could feel the mist of the ocean on my cheeks. Just looking out at the incredible scenery made Kerri and I so giddy. We couldn’t stop laughing and jumping up and down like a five years old on Christmas morning.

Nightfall soon came, and we were ready to watch the fairy penguins tumble ashore from the ocean onto the beach after a day’s fishing (they swim 15-50km/day in their hunt for food). Bundled up and patiently waiting, Kerri, Ian, and I finally saw the little penguins waddle their way on shore (pictures were not allowed at this point, as it scares the penguins). After about 20 minutes, we walked down the paths for the viewers and we were able to watch the penguins continue their journey on land and into their burrows.

Even though the penguins were cute, the best part was the atmosphere and the pure bliss I experienced. Throughout my years of traveling, I’ve learned that sometimes you need to stop and think. I call it “stopping time”. So there I was, sitting oh-so-happily, and I stopped and just thought about where I was and what I was doing and how beautiful it all was. I didn’t even mind the cool wind that was hitting my cheeks, with the combination of the salty smell of the ocean at night, I felt so refreshed. Looking out into the ocean and across the mountainous land, I felt so free. Looking up into the dark night sky with mixtures of black and blue clouds with bright, little stars was an image I had missed. It was pure bliss.

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