Weeks 8 and 9
I arrived in Noosa on a local bus service from Maroochydore as I was off the beaten Greyhound track. The bus was driven by a very pleasant British ex-pat from Yorkshire. We chatted for a while on the journey as we were the only two onboard! Eventually the bus began to fill up with school kids, surfboards and grannies. This was a sure fire sign of the eclectic nature of Noosa that was to come. It is one of the most expensive places to live in the region, and some of the riverside properties are breathtaking and worth millions of dollars. There’s a street called Hastings Street that is full of the top designer brands from around the world, along with some very swanky restaurants. Then, just down the road from that is the very down to earth Surf Club. But it all works so beautifully well together. I always felt that Byron was my favourite place, but thinking back to Noosa makes it a very close run thing.
I had heard good things about the YHA hostel in Noosa, called Halse Lodge, from other travellers. The other options in town included Nomads which is a definite no for me. Nomads is really for the 18-25 year old crowd. The Halse Lodge was fantastic and ranks amongst my favourite hostels. It is a 19th century wooden house built for a cleric back in it’s day. It’s so full of character, it’s amazing the timber walls can contain it.
Sabine arrived from the south to join me for her last night out in Australia before sadly returning home to Germany. She mentioned something about work and money? Anyway, Sabine was the unfortunate one who had to suffer for me to realise how selfish I was in danger of becoming on my little mission. Perhaps selfish is the wrong word, but having spent so long only having to worry about one person, ME, I forgot to consider that I had a companion for the evening. We had decided to treat ourselves and dine out. In the meantime I received a Skype call from Tommy and he had quite a lot of news. I was really engrossed in everything happening in his world and completely lost track of time. Sabine ‘gently’ reminded me a couple of times until, finally, I ended the call with Tommy and we headed out. That’s when ‘small town Australia’ really bit me on the bum. We take things for granted back in England, such as restaurants that stay open past 9pm! Quite incredibly, we were unable to get a table at 9pm in Noosa, Sunshine Coast, Australia in the summer. All kitchens were closed. Sabine had been pretty patient up until now, but she certainly let me know that she was more than mildly disappointed at my lack of urgency. This sent me off into one of my childish sulks where I go all quiet, hopefully for the last time as I came to realise how ridiculous that whole thing is! Although, in my defence, who would have thought that in a holiday resort all the Chefs’ would pack up and leave by 9pm?! So, all that put a bit of a damper on things but we managed to get an Indian takeaway thanks to an act of pity, I believe, on the part of a friendly Manager. We took our plastic tubs, plastic cutlery, plastic bottle of lemonade (yeah, liquor stores were closed too!) and headed to the beach. Good to see I haven’t lost my romantic touch, eh?! It all came good in the end.
I waved Sabine off on the Greyhound next morning and spent the rest of the day laying on the beach and updating the blog. In the evening I ended up with a group who were hanging out in the car park with a few drinks and music playing from the boot of a Dutchman’s car. Just like the old days! It was a pretty fun night during which I met Claudia, from Zurich, Switzerland. The following day was Australia day which meant a national holiday and big parties across the country. Claudia was planning on taking a walk through the national park on a koala hunt. I had taken a short walk through the park with Sabine but Claudia was planning the full blown 4 hour mission. I can’t remember if I was invited, or if I invited myself but either way we agreed to meet after breakfast and hit the track.
Australia day was super hot. We did the four hour walk and managed to get a glimpse of most things including some pretty lairy spiders, a guana, sea turtles and, just as we were getting to the end of the track, a wild koala clinging to a eucalyptus tree and catching some z’s! As the track ended next to the beach, it would have been rude not to go for a refreshing dip in the sea. The pacific ocean never felt so good, even with the sea parasites nipping behind my knees. A very weird sensation that hasn’t happened anywhere else!
I kind of expected some kind of beach party for the Australia day celebrations, but seeing as nothing was happening Claudia and me created our own. However, by the time we got down to the BBQ’s by the river it was dark. Although the council kindly provide these facilities, the one thing they lack is light. Never fear! I donned my superman cape and headed off in to town whilst Claudia bravely attempted to get the show underway with the light from her phone! I returned, triumphant, laden with candles and some plastic cups to stick them in. It was one of those random events, and was a lot of fun. Claudia left the next morning. Do you see a theme developing? Is it me? Or, is it just the nature of the travelling world? I think the latter, or at least I hope so!!
The same day that Claudia left, a couple of likely lads from the homeland arrived. Toby and Jay. Toby owns a couple of restaurants down in Brighton, and Jay has a name with only one syllable. Toby has a ‘way with the women’ and the ‘women run away’ from Jay. Toby supports Southampton and is full of expectations and the hope of some silverware, poor old Jay is a dirty dirty gooner with no hope and CERTAINLY no silverware.
Football differences aside, it was a pretty good combination. People just watched on in uncomfortable fascination at the banter flying around. I think most of the foreign nationals were convinced a fight would break out at any moment! We had a lot of fun playing up to their fears. We hooked up with a load of different people over the time that we ended up staying there. In fact I stayed there for 9 nights! That’s a record for me, excluding the ’forced on me’ 10 nights at Jackaroo in Sydney (although, technically I only stayed there 9 nights due to the delayed flight!). I think the Canadian/Dutch girls we met, Ella and Anne were the ones who appreciated the banter the most, they couldn’t get enough!
I spent most days surfing at Noosa, which has to be one of the best spots I have ever surfed. The waves are perfect for my skill level, and with the weather the way it was I was out there in just boardies – heaven! The hostel had boards available for free, all I had to do was leave $100 deposit. They were not the coolest boards (red and yellow foamies with a hard bottom and flames, YEAH!) but they were fun. One of the more bizarre experiences I had was when I caught a pretty good wave and rode it almost to shore. As I dived off my board feeling pretty pleased with my effort I heard someone call out “go Gordie!!”. I turned round, and there was a local who had been drinking with us in the bar the night before! Toby was going good too, it was nice having someone else to surf with. Surfing, for me, is way more fun when shared.
The culmination of this particular period was an impromptu night down by the river. Beer, burgers and generous helpings of tequila followed by a dip in the river. The line up included me (UK), Toby (UK), Jay (UK), Anne (NL), Ella (NL), Rosa (NL) Martin (D), Gabbi (US), Steve (AUS), John (SW) and Israel (UK). A pretty multi-cultural crew, and yes Israel is a guy from the UK. That was not a mistake! Steve, an aborigine who works with disadvantaged children, produced the killer line of the night. There were about 5 or 6 of us in the river, stripped down to just underwear, when Steve came diving in from nowhere. He swam up to us and said perfectly calmly “everyone else is naked, yeah?” I swear, I almost drowned!!!
From then on it got a bit more adventurous, until we were climbing on board a luxury yacht and diving off. That was, until the owner came out! After running like I haven’t done since the days of ‘chap door run’ we ended up at a bridge over the river. A perfect spot for jumping in, and no one to upset. Steve took the lead and jumped, testing the depth! We all followed suit until PC Rolf rocked up in his patrol car. He proceeded to tell us ‘you’re not local, are you? If you were, you wouldn’t be jumping in to this river which is full of bullsharks and stingrays.” Oops. We got dressed and were politely moved on.
The night didn’t end there as we walked in to town to try and find a night club and got talking to a local walking in the opposite direction. He explained that as it was past 1am everywhere was closed, or dead. He invited us back to his for a house party, although there were 6 of us at this point and only 1 of him so really WE were providing the party! He called a mate who owned a private hire minibus in the town and we were on our way. We got to the guys place and he put on some music before cracking open Pandora’s box of illegal tricks. It was quite apparent from the start what this was all about, but it added to the adventure of the night. The majority of us kindly turned down our hosts offer and shortly afterwards, thanks to the quick thinking and streetwise Jay, we were on our way back to town with the minibus that had taken us there.
In between all of that I had a very cool day out with the Zerners on the weekend. We began with a boat ride out with the whole family, courtesy of Mel’s dad who is the proud owner of what the Aussie’s call a Tinny and allowed Jason to take us in it.
After the ride out with the family, Jason and me headed out on a fishing trip. A first for me. Jason was a great teacher, showing me how to attach bait to the line and also how to cast. My casting was pretty lame to be fair, but I did get a few good ones.
Pretty quickly we started getting bites and soon accumulated a haul of around 8 bream. We took them to shore where Jason showed me how to fillet them. I had a go at some descaling, but Jason handled the technical side. Back at Mel’s parents place we were treated to a bbq before I was dropped back at my hostel. I had the fish with me, and a mixture of flour and lemon from Mel’s mum along with some salad from the bbq. It was a lovely meal. Caught it, cooked it, consumed it! All in the spa
It was sad times leaving Noosa, and Halse Lodge. The place had become like home and I was well acquainted with most of the locals and the staff, and had made some great friends. The locals like the place as it’s the only bar in town where you can take your drink outside for a smoke! They also had a piano there, that was IN tune and free wifi. But, it was time to move on. I had the feeling. Too much of a good thing and all that.
The next week was probably the most crumbiest time I’ve had since I left home. I put it down to a culmination of a come down after such an awesome time in Bli Bli and Noosa, and that fact that I developed a sty on my eye not long after arriving at Rainbow Beach. It really made me feel crappy. My Rainbow Beach experience didn’t do much to help, although there were a couple of highlights.
Rainbow is a tiny tiny town, with a population less than 1,000. From a tourism point of view, it serves as a base for visiting Fraser Island. A world heritage site. As my adventure is really ad hoc, I didn’t fit in at all at the hostel. Everybody there was either just about to head off on their long since booked Fraser trip, or had just returned. I spent 2 days there procrastinating about how best to see the island. The tag-along tour didn’t do it for me. Basically, you go along with a large group to a pre-tour meeting and are separated into teams of 8 whilst being given a laundry list of do’s and don’t’s. I overheard one meeting and it was like being back at school. Also, most of the participants were well under 25 so I would have been the oldest swinger in town by far. The idea is you take turns to drive the 4×4 so at any one time there will be 6 of you crammed in the back. You ‘follow the leader’ around the island before setting up camp and, presumably, getting pissed. All these things together put me off, apart from the last thing.
I spoke to a couple of travel agents. Hiring a 4×4 and going on my own was not an option. Not only was the cost prohibitive, but it straight up was not allowed on your own. There is a 4×4 tourist bus that runs a day trip. It seemed this would be my only way of seeing the island, outside of the tag along. Although, I was into the tourist bus as much as I was into the tag along. This is the point where I abandoned the whole Fraser Island idea. Why should I do it if I’m really not feeling it? It’s supposedly a ‘must see’ place, but I couldn’t see it the way I wanted to. I think my ‘Nimbin’ experience was the biggest player involved in this match so I trusted my gut feeling and booked the Greyhound out of here!
The morning of the day I left, I found a little video/book store offering internet access. This is where I met the owner, Caroline. She had damaged her arm surfing and was wearing a sling. A lady had just arrived with boxes full of books. Caroline bribed me with free internet and a coffee to help unload the Samaritans car. Backpacker and free is such a beautiful combination. I was on it. I got chatting with Caroline about travel, Volkswagens, writing and learned that she writes for the local paper. We spent quite a while chatting before the time came for me to leave as I was bound for Agnes Water. A town near a place called 1770, where Cpt. Cook landed in, er, 1770.
So, my time in Rainbow although not consisting of the obligatory trip to Fraser Island was not in vain. One evening I ventured out, alone to the Carlo Sandblow. An amazing creation of nature where the wind literally blows the sand over everything in it’s path creating a huge, sandy valley in the cliff. The only other person there was floating a couple of 100ft above me, paragliding over the incredible scenery.
I also got to feed a wild dolphin! I have to admit slight disappointment as the flyer assured me ‘swim with, and feed wild dolphins’. Well, they should drop the pluralisation and also replace the word swim with wade. But still, it was an incredible experience and my first contact with this stunning creature.
And, I got to meet Caroline. Stay tuned for interesting developments on that. For now, I’m off on the bus to Agnes Water. A gruelling 10 hour stint. Ouch.