I want to start by wishing two of my favorite people a happy birthday — Ruthie and Pepere!! I have been missing you guys and look forward to seeing you when I come home 🙂 Secondly, I have started my trip up the coast FINALLY!! It has been full of excitement and I am SO glad I have made it out of Sydney. Thirdly, I have decided to come home after my trip finishes. Probably about early August. As much as I wish I could stay until October or November as I had originally planned, I am one hundred percent out of money. Finding work here – esp in the “winter” months is proving to be quite difficult. I have been stressing about money since my second month here, and I am sick about trying to find work — all the time (I swear fifty percent of my trip has been about finding work, and that is simply not what I came here for).

Anyway, I have made my peace with it. I have learned so much about traveling and myself. If I could do it all over again, I would do a lot of things differently but you live and you learn, don’t you? In a couple of years, I hope to teach English in as a second language in Thailand or Italy or Japan… but we will see. I have a lot to figure out when I get home – hell, I have got a whole wedding to plan!!

Anyway, a recap on my trip up the East Coast (or the first two weeks anyway):

– My last day with the Ernie and Fred we had the most epic pillow fight! Their mom asked me to get their energy out before their 18 hour plane ride to England (first stop China). So we had a pillow fight. It was so funny because I would take them all the way down almost every time I hit them with the big pillows, and they could hardly lift them to hit me back. They were “knackered” by the time I was done with them. Hell, I was knackered by the time I was done with them.

– I packed up all my stuff the next day, and I left half of it at the Harts (they offered to store whatever I didn’t want to bring on the trip with me). It was the best decision I have ever made! I think its an American thing to over-pack the way I did to begin with. Anyway, I have learned to live on a much smaller wardrobe and I have been alright.

– Grace and I stayed two nights in a hostel right in Sydney center — maybe a five minute walk from where the LOKA bus picked us up to head of the coast! It was raining pretty hard when we got on the bus, and our group was so small!! There was only five of us. I knew Grace, and then there was Ben, Aaron and Emma. Our group leader, Jarryd, turned out to be pretty awesome, and of course our group become pretty close pretty quickly.

– Our first stop was Barrington Tops. It was a small house/farm in the middle of absolutely nowhere. It was SO cold when we arrived and we had to strip down and get into wet suits as soon as we got there. We went tubing down the coldest river I have ever set foot in! It wasn’t that exciting simply because I have tubed down the Saxtons River a million times and its way better! But it was fun. I tried not to have to put my hands in the water at all — the wet suits kept our bodies pretty warm though.

– Immediately after stripping off the wet suits, we hopped into the jacuzzi!! It was so nice – in that stinging and numbing sort of way. We were allowed only a three minute shower and I used mine after getting out of the hot tub.

– They made us pizza and hot dogs for dinner that night and we played games to get to know each other. There were three other girls that worked on the farm as well as the man who owned the property all staying there for good. The girls who worked there were doing their three months of farm work in order to gain the second year VISA to stay in Australia (Americans are not allowed to farm work for their second year — in order to stay longer we would have to get sponsorship). Anyway, they were a really great addition to our little group.

– We fed a baby calf less than a two months old, and there was chicks and a dog and a ton or cows around. Kangaroos were everywhere (but not as pets) and the view was incredible. There was no insulation in the house or anything so I was quite cold that night.

– After the ice breaker of the night, the bus ride was much more exciting. Since we were buddies with Jarryd (the tour guide) we played the music we liked and played hang-man. Most of our bus rides were full of fun!

– Our next stop was Spot X. It was like SurfCamp, but called MOJO instead. We stayed in Teepees that night (also pretty cold). There was a big party that night, and we had a big game of truth or dare going so we had some pretty good laughs. Grace had to do the Carlton dance on the table in the lounge (where people who weren’t playing the game were hanging out) and I had to sniff the night manager’s beard (we are STILL laughing about that one). There were a few others, but those were the best ones.

– The next morning we had a surf lesson. It was really fun! Despite the cold, the water was pretty warm and the sun was out so it wasn’t too chilly over all. Because of my week at SurfCamp, I looked like a natural getting up first try lol. The instructor started giving me a few private challenges which was nice.

– We then had a cook-out in a nice little park and went kayaking in a nearby river. Grace and I naturally were buddies, but it was a mistake because we were so much slower than everyone else (both the other kayaks had quite muscular men paddling in the back and Grace and I had me paddling the back). I hadn’t kayaked in ages so it was still fun, Grace and I were determined not the let our lack of speed discourage us and kept telling everyone it wasn’t a race. It was pretty cold though!!

– I got kid of mad because after our surf lesson we were told not to shower because we were going kayaking… and then after we kayaked they brought us to a camp site with no running water or electricity!! I am not one to complain about that kind of stuff, in fact I was all for it! However, I had had only one three minute shower in three days!! I would have been happy to shower after surfing if they hadn’t told me not to. We were supposed to stay in “swags” which are like personal tents that allow you to see the stars. Needless to say, I wasn’t too disappointed when it got rained out and we went back to our teepees at Spot X (with running water and electricity).

– That was our last night with Ben. We just hung out in the TV room messing around and called it an early night. The next day we went cliff-diving in Yamba!! We stopped there just for lunch and a cliff dive, then headed to Byron Bay. The cliff diving was terrifying! I was SOOO scared, but I did it! Nearly a 30ft drop, but I did it! It messed up my tail bone pretty bad when I did it though — its still bothering me and its been over a week.

– In Byron Bay we stayed in a really nice and really friendly hostel – Nomads. We made friends with three girls in our room — all 20 but acted like they were 16. Our first night there we went out, but by the time we got out the door it was about 11 and apparently nothing stays open that late on a Monday. Two of the girls we were with were kicked out of the bar we were at for being too intoxicated. The rest of us were bored with the God-awful live band that was playing so went to bed. I hadn’t been feeling so it was not major loss to me, but an hour later the two drunk girls came back, and one of them threw up on her bed. I moved to a top bunk and she took my bottom one after her friend got her taken care of. However, our room smelled like vomit for the rest of our four night stay in Byron.

– The next morning, Grace and I went kayaking with dolphins! It was so amazing!! For those of you that know Finding Nemo — the part with the turtles floating down the EAC (East Australia Current) — that’s where I was kayaking!! Right on the EAC dude! There were TONS of dolphins. It was really incredible. They were in front of us, behind us, and on either side!! We weren’t close enough to touch them, but almost close enough! We paddled out farther in order to try and see some whales (we had seen some around that area when we did the lighthouse walk the day before), but we weren’t able to see any that day. The group that went the next day saw whales, but few dolphins. We were also hoping to see sea turtles, but didn’t manage to see any.

– When kayaking, they had us in wet suits in order to stay warmer. One of the instructors gave me the world’s tightest wet suit (and I have put them on plenty of times now! I know how tight they are supposed to be and that the tighter the warmer and all that, but this one was simply too small). I couldn’t even stand up straight in the thing. Paddling was a struggle! First thing I did on land, was take the damn thing off. I was given a helmet that was wayyyyy too big for my head — even on the smallest setting so I think the guy just had something against Americans or something LOL.

– When we were coming in, we were supposed to “surf the wave” in our kayaks. Grace and I went first — I fell out, but in comparison the rest of the group I think we did pretty good! haha

– I should specify that this “tour” I am on is only semi guided. Some of our stops include activities with our little group (and people come and go depending on how long they decide to stay at each stop). Some of our activities are things we plan on our own. So my kayaking group was bigger and full of people I did’t know. Up until Byron Bay, we had stuck with our small LOKA group.

– We had four nights in Byron, but unfortunately it rained for the better part of our stay. It was frustrating because beach days are wonderful and FREE!! When it rains and you are living in a hostel … there is very little to do. We ended up going out out of sheer boredom. However, it might have been one of the best nights on the trip so far! We had such a random group of people out with us — many of which were people we had met that night at the hostel. It was so much fun! The dancing part of the bar was set up with a bunch of picnic-table-like tables, and that’s what we danced on!

– Our last day in Byron was gorgeous. We spent the day on the beach and then did the light house walk. It was lovely. The hostel was good because it hosted things like movie nights, trivia, ping pong competitions etc.

– The next morning we had to catch a 7am bus to Surfer’s Paradise. We arrived at 9am, and checked into our hostel. It was great because Grace, Aaron, Emma and I all requested to be in the same room. Then Doug (from Scottland who just joined our tour) joined our room, and was meeting a friend who looked just like Robert Pattinson, so all 6 of us stayed in the same room. We all really hit it off, and the hot tub was great!

– Grace’s and my favorite restaurant in Sydney was Pancakes On The Rocks, and we knew there was a brand new Pancakes in Surfer’s. So after checking in, we immediately went to the restaurant. It was amazing!! We actually ended up going again the next day. We kept it pretty low-key when we were at Surfer’s. We went to the arcade and played Bumper Cars (or DodgeEms here lol). It was all really fun — and our little group was a blast.

– Our next stop was Brisbane. Brisbane is a real city with a lagoon in the middle. I like the city a lot. We were there for three nights. Our bus dropped us off at a hostel 15minutes from the hostel Grace and I were actually staying in. So we has to walk with ALL our things to where we were staying. We didn’t speak the whole time…It was awful and quite hot as well!

– Our first full day in Brisbane, we went to the Australia Zoo. We were actually quite disappointed in the zoo. Taronga (in Sydney) was loads better! So much bigger, there was way more animals. In the Australia Zoo, they had a cheetah but they didn’t have an enclosure for him. So they kept him on a leash and the staff walked him around. It kind of broke my heart to see the fastest animal in the world on a leash being casually walked. It also POURED rain all day (or as the English say, “it was pissing it down”), which made it kind of miserable. But we still had a good time. Grace and I went with Dougy (our Scottish friend we met in Surfer’s), Aaron and Emma.

– We watched several little “shows” with the animals to keep us busy (because we booked the 7:30am bus and weren’t going to leave until 4:30pm). The tiger show was the best! They were like really big dogs! It was great. We also went to a bigger show with birds and crocodiles. It was kind of dumb, but the crocodile part was pretty good. The crocodile wasn’t taking his cues like he was supposed to, which made it kind of funny. One of the staff members working with the croc kept getting in the water with him when he wasn’t supposed to, and the announcer had to keep reminding him that he should “definitely not be in the water with the crocodile right now” LOL. Nothing bad happened, but the crocodile was definitely being a little shit, which I found more entertaining than if he was following all his cues.

– The next day, Grace and I walked around Brisbane a lot. It was a gorgeous day (which we deserved after all the rain at the zoo). We went to the lagoon with Dougy, and then to Minions. I wasn’t totally impressed by the movie, but it was cute. Grace and I got Dominos after the movie, and then just chilled.

– The next day we grabbed our bus to Noosa. Jarryd (our first tour guide) was our bus driver, which was great because we had been missing him! It was nice to be able to say a proper goodbye to him. He picked us up at our hostel so we didn’t have to walk with all our stuff back to the other drop-of point. He said our hostel was the other drop-off point in Brisbane … but the other bus driver clearly didn’t know that — or at least didn’t mention it. -__-

– We only stayed at Noosa for one night, and the next morning we caught a 7am bus to Rainbow Beach. We had a pretty big group at this point, and were able to meet loads of more new people, which was great! From Rainbow the group of us got into three 4×4 cars, and then drove onto a boat that dropped us at Fraser Island.

– From there, we drove to our hostel on the sandy beach! We had lunch at the hostel, and then drove on the sandy paths in the woods to Lake MacKenzie. It was the most beautiful lake I had ever seen! The water was the clearest blue! It was a bit too cold for me to want to go swimming, but I relaxed in the sun and the lake was just beautiful. We had the small 5-seater car, and everyone LOVED the music on my iphone. It hasn’t been updated with new music in years, but everyone was loving the oldies. Aaron didn’t hold back on belting out all the girly songs either!!

– After Lake MacKenzie, we went back to the hostel for dinner (steak, potatoes, corn and veggies — solid dinner!). The rest of the night our group hung out together. Starting getting a closer knit group.

– The following day, we went to Champagne Pools. On the way we stopped at Wreckage of S.S. Maheno. Because we are in the winter months it felt too chilly for me to get into the water at Champagne Pools. Some people still did, but I didn’t want to be cold the rest of the day. Oysters are all of the rocks, and they can slice your feet right open if you cut yourself — so we had to be super careful climbing on the rocks. The best part were the whales in the distance. We could see them coming out of the water and their tales popping up as well. It was pretty amazing.

– From there, we went to Indian Head. (TO COME: write the story to Indian Head rock) Beautiful views there as well. From Indian Head we had lunch and then went to Eli Creek. Eli Creek is a little stream that eventually runs into the ocean. The water is totally purified so we were able to fill our water bottles with the water from the creek. We waded in and walked down the creek, but no one got in because of the chilly wind. We tried to play baseball on the beach — made interesting by the strong wind. It was pretty fun!

– That night we chilled as a big group again. Toward the end of the night a smaller group of us went to the beach to go “ding hunting”. The beach was closed because apparently a group of 6 had been attacked by the alpha male. They had to have done something to provoke the dingo because one dingo wouldn’t attack a group that size. But from what I understand, they will be putting the dog down as a result. They are not kept as pets, and they made it clear upon our arrival that dingos are a very real threat on Fraser Island.

– The next day we went to Lake Wabby. It was about a 45 minute hike from where we drove. The whole walk was on beachy sand, and then we were among tons of sand dunes. We walked down the dunes to the lake and it was GORGEOUS! We stayed there about an hour, and then walked back. We had lunch at the hostel and then headed back to Noosa. We had the best car from the last couple days though! Grace, Aaron, Jordan, Scotty and me — our little Fraser family.

NOTE: Pics to come!!