After a long night of drinking in Sydney, we foolishly decided to set off that next morning for an absurdly long road trip up the coast to Airlie Beach in Queensland. Before we dragged our hungover waste of selves onto the road north, however, I had to go about collecting my possessions that were scattered all over Sydney (ukulele and backpack from a locked van in Coogee Beach that we had to break into through the window, my backpack and tent from Aaron’s house in Epping, etc.).
After laborious hours of loafing about, collecting all my belongings, getting lost in Epping and stumbling into a Korean church service while in search of a phone, myself, Kate, and Heather finally set out on the road in our noble steed of a hatchback rental car. Determined that we did not in fact need a map, we found ourselves 84 U-turns later in the town of Campelltown, halfway to Canberra and 2 hours south of Sydney. Seeing as we were trying to head north, that really got us off on the right foot and in a good mood. For the record, the man who we asked direction with at the gas station did not know the name of the town we were in.
Once we cleared the city again and headed off north the tension cleared and we were on our way. We managed to make it all the way to Airlie Beach in just under 24 hours, which included 23 hours and 45 minutes if driving, and about 15 minutes of combined bathroom and gas stops. We were hopped up on the Red Bull and coffee for the push through the night, and had our eyes peeled for errant kangaroos crossing the road ( we almost nailed a little joey around dawn as it hopped about 2 feet in front of the car). Once we made it to Airlie Beach it became immediately apparent that the 24 hour drive was going to be worth it. Due to the presence of deadly box jellyfish in the ocean from around December-May you are unable to go in the water, so in order to compensate, the city created a massive freshwater lagoon right on the sand looking out at the remarkably Caribbean-esque Whitsunday islands. For 3 days we lounged around the lagoon, had BBQ’s on the idyllic cover next to the lagoon, and spent our nights camped out on the sand and strips of grass in front of the yacht marina. Upon waking up one morning (after discovering I had slept directly underneath the coconuts of the coconut tree…real safe), we saw a figure coming towards us at dawn. As the sun broke the eastern horizon behind us, we were convinced that it was someone from the yacht club telling us that we couldn’t camp on their property. Upon speaking, however, the lady simply commented “You couldn’t ask for a better view to wake up to could you?”. No ma’am, you absolutely could not. This was perfect.
After another strenuous day of lounging in the warm lagoon, sipping cold beers, and playing ukulele in the sand, we spent that next night sleeping aboard an old square rigger named the Coral Trekker that was in port. Knowing the crew through my friend Kate, they welcomed us aboard for the evening into the staterooms for some free, unique lodging. After some drinks that night, we naturally decided to climb the yardarms all the way to the top (about 75 feet above deck), and I could not even imagine having to unfurl the sails and place the covers on them while under sail and in a squall. Let’s just say it was a beautiful boat but I was glad to be aboard it in port.
Having spent enough time lounging about town, it was finally time to get out to the islands, which proved to live up to every hype I have heard about them. The sand is 98% white silica, and the views from Hill Inlet and Whitehaven Beach are ones that can make postcard producers giddy. For the entirety of the day we walked the white sand beaches and snorkled fingers of the Great Barrier Reef that had coral and marine life that were vastly different than anything I ever experienced working in Hawaii. Three foot long purple clams served as stunning backgrounds for colors and masses of fish that I never dreamed could have existed, and I felt like I was Alice just haven fallen down the hole into Wonderland. On the ride back to shore we simply lounged on the bow of the boat and relished how lucky we were to have just spent time in such a picture-perfect setting.
Deciding to take it a little bit slower on the drive back down south, we actually decided to stop and sleep in a proper location as opposed to the back seat of the car. Seeing as I had about three cents to my name at this point, a proper location meant camped out on the beach under a blanket at Noosa Heads. Some people would call this homeless, I would call it a soft bed with an amazing sunrise view.
Prior to our arrival in Noosa, however, the girls wanted to take a quick shower somewhere, as I have found girls frequently do. Stopping at a very shady truck stop in the middle of absolute nowhere, Kate not only managed to take a shower in some backroom trucker stall, but also managed to lock the door behind her while she was drying off, leaving all of her clothes, bags, and car keys locked inside. So we’re stuck at some truck stop in the middle of the night with a blond girl in a towel pleading with someone if they have an extra key to the showers so we can be on our way again. Getting nowhere with the store employees, I finally just started removing pieces of drywall in the ceiling to climb up and through the air conditioning vents and drop down into the shower stall with all of her bags. It was straight out of some bad movie, but it got the job done and we were on our way back south once again.
Upon finally arriving in Noosa, we made our way to an out of the way parking lot at the end of the road, fully expecting to find a mellow place to crash for the night. Instead, we happened upon nothing other than a raging party of high schoolers all awkwardly trying impress the opposite sex on a night out in the parking lot. And this is from a country where the drinking age is 18. There are frequently moments when I am on the road where I just step back and laugh at the situations I find myself in, with this one being drinking in some random parking lot in Noosa, Australia with a tribe of mid-pubescent 16 year olds, where I consider myself the mature adult who is about to go sleep for free on the beach.
The town of Noosa itself is an incredibly elegant little beach community that plays host to fine shopping and dining and is set right on a classic Australian headland. Beautiful beaches, beautiful people, money definitely lives in this town. One part of the downtown strip I did really enjoy was perusing the Peter Lik gallery,a world renowned photographer who focuses a lot ofhis work on Australia and Hawaii. His talent completely inspires me, and it did in fact make me a little homesick seeing shots of places I frequent in Hawaii while being so far removed from home .
The last stop on the road trip before descending back into New South Wales and Sydney proper was the Australia Zoo, the brainchild of Steve Irwin that was experiencing a massive flux in attendance due to his recent death by stingray. While impressive, it was tough watching people try to provide the same enthusiasm that Irwin once brought to the animals. Anytime you can view a hundred year old Galapagos turtle and feeding wombats in the same day however, I consider to be a success. On the way to the zoo that morning we actually got sidetracked in the Glass House mountains in search of a rustic shower, and I am so incredibly glad that we did. This corner of the Australian hinterland was simply stunning, and the trails out into the open country called loudly to the intrepid explorer to venture within. I would love to get back to this area and do some proper work exploring in and around these forested hills.