“Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going.” – Paul Theroux ~ Spring Break in September!
From being abroad for the past three and a half months, I’ve learned that what I love more than anything is to be more of a traveler than a tourist. I really like just going somewhere and discovering things to do, instead of having a scheduled itinerary and being stuck in one of those horrible buses having facts screamed at you that you’re never going to remember. But, when you travel, you get to do what you want, when you want, and how you want. To me, that’s so much more rewarding.
So, 4 am rolls around Thursday morning (the 20th of September), and myself and 3 of my friends grab a taxi to the Cairns Airport for our 6 am flight to Brisbane. And this is the beginning of spring break… in September haha! So, of course, our airport experience had to be stressful in some way (never runs smoothly, does it?). First, one of my friends couldn’t get his boarding pass to print, so he had to go to the counter. And, naturally, they wanted to weigh his bags. For the next 9 days, we decided to live out of a backpack and small carry on (which we packed to the brims and both items were WAY over the weight limit). So, the lady working at the counter wouldn’t give him his ticket until his bags weighed in at the right amount. So, we hid behind a ticket kiosk and just started unpacking all of his stuff and hiding it. Eventually, we made it through. However, once it was time to board the plane, my carry on became the item of concern. This is because it JUST met the measurement requirements. Before I boarded, I got pulled aside to place my bag in once of those pre-measured metal boxes. I literally forced my bag to fit (which it did), but the wheels were hanging out. The one airport attendant was like nope this is not acceptable, but the manager was like that’s fine just go through. So, for the rest of the flight, I was on this attendant’s bad side and he called me out two more times for having my phone out (the flight attendants didn’t even announce to put them away yet) and because my seat was slightly reclined (which I didn’t even notice haha). But, the rest of the flight was uneventful and we arrived in the Brisbane Airport at 8am. Then, we caught a taxi and headed to our hostel (Chill Backpackers).
Chill backpackers was a decent place. The rooms were a little crammed and it was on the way outskirts of the city- but we managed. The first day we just explored Brisbane and at night went to the Brisbane Festival. Brisbane is a unique city, but there wasn’t too much to see or do in the area (which we soon found out from a travel company we talked to in town haha). But, the next day, five more of our friends flew in to Brisbane. So, we explored and decided that we wanted to go rollerblading. Rollerblading was awesome! It was years since any one of us had done it last, so we felt like we were little kids again. Later that afternoon, we had a brewery tour at XXXX Brewery (which we had to take a boat, a train, and a bus to get to haha). Then, that night, we were at the Brisbane Festival again enjoying the music and nightlife. The next day, we did some shopping in the city, grabbed dinner out, and packed up for the bus we had to take the next morning.
At 7:45am the next morning, we took a 6 hour bus ride to Hervey Bay. The bus wasn’t too bad, since we all got our own seat and basically slept the entire ride. Our hostel in Hervey Bay was perfect though! We got two cabins with beds, a kitchen area, and a bathroom. The hostel was located in a really residential area, but we were able to walk to the beach and the pier. The next day, we booked a day tour for Fraser Island -the largest sand island in the world! It was quite a trip to say the least and totally not what I expected. I’m not a big tour person (I hate being stuck in vans driving around all day and having like 5 minutes to see sites), but a tour was virtually the only way we would get to see the island. The roads were CRAZY- all sand, bumpy, and tricky. The huge tour buses were fine since they were equipped with the wheels and power engines to take on the sand. However, a lot of cars were stuck at points. Fraser Island was amazing though! The beaches were stunning, and we got to see a lot of gorgeous places on the island and even a few wild dingoes!
The next morning, we were off on a whopping ten-hour bus ride to the Gold Coast (yes, we really didn’t plan this trip well haha). The amount of traveling we did was insane- but we loved every single moment of it. This was a long ride- but before we knew it we were in the Gold Coast at Aquarius Hostel! The next day, six of us decided we wanted to go deep sea fishing. We are notorious for screwing up directions- so we ended up on the opposite side of the bay we were supposed to meet the boat. So, the boat came and picked us up so we could start the day on time. On the boat ride out, we caught smaller fish for bait and saw a few dolphins and a sea turtle. Then, for the entirety of the afternoon, we were out in the middle of the ocean fishing. We caught a ton of huge tuna from poles that were hanging off the back of the boat. I caught a bonita fish on my line, and another friend of mine caught a flathead. We were really pleased, since apparently the group that went fishing that very morning caught nothing. Also, on the ride back, we saw whales jumping out of the water. It was one of the coolest things I have ever witnessed and I can’t believe we saw it- simply incredible.
When we got back to coast, we had to take the fish we caught with us (which the guys on the boat were nice enough to gut). However, we now had six huge tuna, a bonita fish, and a flathead fish in our possession, and our hostel didn’t have the knives we needed to filet. Therefore, I walked into a seafood shop and was wondering if I could make a deal with the people that if they filleted our fish for us we would give them some of our fish (market value of the tuna we caught was approximately $200-$300 a fish, and the flathead fish is valued at $70 per kilogram). Therefore, we had over a grand worth of freshly caught fish in our possession. I had the one lady who worked there convinced that it was a good deal, but then the manager came over and shot the idea down, saying he’d charge us per kilo to fillet the fish (which was way too expensive). So, we left the seafood shop, and a lady came out and told us to go to the camper van park and that there was more than likely someone there who had knives we could use. The camper van park was quite a trek (especially carrying 6 huge tuna), but we made it! We were able to borrow two fillet knives and use their fish cleaning station. Our group became quite a spectacle haha- six girls filleting these HUGE fish. But, we did it! We took the filets home, marinated them, grilled them, and ate them- super delicious! That experience was probably one of the best and oddest things I have ever done haha.
The next morning, we had surf lessons on the beach. Well, one of the many beaches (it was kind of on the outskirts of the Gold Coast). It was a great day for surfing- bright blue skies and awesome waves! Surfing wasn’t as hard as I expected, but that is probably because I have snowboarded and skateboarded before. However, it was completely exhausting and you got beat up a lot from the waves and what not. The rest of the day we spent on the gorgeous beach, which wasn’t too crowded and had a ton of adorable dogs running around on it. The following day we spent at the beach in Surfer’s Paradise, did some shopping, and ate out at a Chinese restaurant.
The next day, we took a flight home to Cairns. And we were COMPLETELY exhausted. It was quite the adventure! And it’s something we will always cherish, with all of the crazy mishaps and what not. But, it is always good to be home. Living in crammed hostels for so long was kind of wearing on me. But, we made it, and we got to see a lot of different places in Australia. And, I am pleased to say, we were definitely travelers more than tourists (which makes me INCREDIBLY happy). Here’s to one month left in Australia!