Day 3 of the exclusive camper van
After a crazy night and morning in Gold Coast, the four of us loaded up our jucy van and drove one hour further–to Brisbane. It had begun to feel strange when we would leave a place that we had spent so little time in and that we would probably never find time to return to because of the timelines imposed by our study abroad trips and also because of future obligations that will most likely prevent us from taking this type of trip again. Still, we managed to appreciate as much as we could the lessons we learned by speeding through different cultures and learning everything that Australia’s Eastern coast had to offer us.
Once we arrived in Brisbane, we roamed the streets close to our backpacking resort which was located very close to a rainbow skyscraper, yet not quite in the CBD. After exploring a few of the streets, we bought the ingredients for a huge Nacho dish and retired to our backpackers resort. Here, we met up with a few of our friends from our apartment buildings back in Sydney–purely by coincidence! Although we spent little time with them, it was good to know a few people at a hostel of mostly strangers.
We also explored the gorgeous botanical gardens right next to Brisbane’s harbour and avoided the dangerous lizards which stalked our group. One man even told me that lizards have a bad habit of mistaking humans for trees, and they tend to jump up on humans to bite deep into their skin for protection that a tree would give them. I have to admit that a lizard who would do that to me would receive less protection than a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay. At the botanical gardens we also took a self-guided tour of the old Parliament House, where politicians gathered to eat and to inspire jealousy within the aspiring fashionable tastes of Queensland’s elites. There was little mention of actual government and political affairs at this mansion, so it seems that Obama would have a much higher potential for peaceful incumbency had he chosen to serve Americans from Australian parliament houses rather than from the White House.
In the city, we took a ferry to the 4X brewery, made famous in Queensland in Australia and a declicious beer to drink anywhere in the country. The tour was quite long but very informational, and they supplied 4 free samplings at the conclusion. Our drivers made sure to limit their consumption, but those of us not obligated to drive enjoyed much more leniency. The ferry system is linked to the public transportation, so unlike in Sydney, a ticket for the Brisbane ferry is also good for a connection to a Brisbane bus for 2 hours. The ferry moved at speeds comparable only to an airplane and my hair was almost cemented in a wild mane above my head by the time we had reached the end of our ride on this super-ferry. I am both elated to have had such an experience and shocked at the damage the wind caused my hair.
Once we finished our day in Brisbane, we were ready for a much longer drive–to Emu park, in order to get to the Whitsunday Islands. These are a chain of islands approximately 6 hours away from Cairns, towards the top of Australia. On the way to our destination we stopped at fresh fruit stands that were on the side of the road and admired the scenery: untouched wilderness, wild roaming cattle, and barely anyone to be seen for the entire drive. In fact, I do not think any American can imagine a country almost identical in size with an east coast of such sparse population density.
The town of the Whitsundays, called Airlie Beach, was a quaint beach town which consisted primarily of spring break backpackers from my own university in Sydney. It had about six bars and 20 restaurants scattered along the main road, with a Yacht club decorating the end and a welcoming Lagoon situated next to the rocky beach. We spent one day relaxing in the town, and the second day the four of us took a snorkeling trip in the chilly but pristine turquoise ocean. We embarked on a speed boat with about 30 fellow participants to a destination on an island designated a national park, and at this haven our instructor barbecued lunch for the group before giving us an hour to explore the beach. He then sailed us towards another island where we strapped on our snorkeling gear and jumped into the water, levitated just inches above Fire Coral, which he warned would have been very painful to touch. The colors of the coral were spectacular, and the blithe fish passed underneath us as casually as though they were taking an afternoon stroll in the cavernous and poisonous coral. After about an hour, we boarded the boat yet again and returned to Airlie beach, only to leave for yet another 6 hour trip to our final destination: Cairns.