Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Queensland, Australia

Queensland makes up the Northeast region of Australia from Cairns (where the Great Barrier Reef is) to the Gold Coast (the beach cities just south of Brisbane).

The beginning of the second half of my world tour began with a rendezvous with a South African friend in Arlie Beach, Queensland, Australia.  I flew into Hamilton Island then took a ferry over to Arlie Beach.

My Friend, Richie, and his friend, Conrad, traveled nearly 5000 KM throughout Australia (3000 miles) by camper van.  I was able to add a little estrogen to their otherwise "bro-fest" for the last 4 days of their epic 40-day adventure.

Em and Richie together again!
By the time I'd gotten there, Richie and Conrad had already gone on a Whitsundays diving excursion and had intended on just chilling at the lagoon and hanging out with fellow backpackers and friends in town.  I was happy to tag along and save diving for another leg of my trip...

On my first day, we decided to sunbathe on the grass at the lagoon.  Evidently there are stingers (jellyfish the size of your pinky fingernail) in the waters that can kill you so you can’t go in the ocean without a stinger suit.

The Stinger-free lagoon
 That evening, we ended up hanging out at some of the backpacker bars drinking cider and playing pool at our hostel.

The next day we met up with one of Conrad’s friends that lived in Arlie Beach.  He took us for a tour from a local's perspective then brought us home to sit on his sick balcony drinking South African Savannah ciders and telling stories.  What was meant to be a mid-day catch up session ran until nearly 8PM and closed out our time in Arlie Beach since we had to leave at 3AM for a 12 hour ride down to Brisbane.

I know, my hair looks awesome here!
We drank...
a lot.
At 3AM, Richie, Conrad and I hopped in the camper van for our 12-hour drive down south.  I had intended on sleeping the full 12 hours, but I only ended up sleeping the first hour and then napping the last 4 or so. 

Conrad "navigating" to the highway

Richie's 3AM leg of the drive
For Americans who are unfamiliar… CAMPER VANS ARE FUCKING AWESOME!  They have 2 benches in the back that convert into a bed, a microwave and a sink.  It was super comfortable and only the size of an Econoline van.  Its not like a giant RV at all.  It (only) fits 3 comfortably and while sleeping in the back, you can’t hear the radio (which we were blaring) in the front.  It was an awesome way to travel.

Poor Conrad missed out. While he was sleeping, I decided to play deejay.  Richie and I belted out the lyrics to my "Power Ballads" playlist at 5AM.  It totally woke us up and got us a little giddy while driving in the wee hours of the morning.

Emily "deejaying" and Richie driving
13 hours later, we arrived in Brisbane to meet Craig, the boys’ friend that they met on a diving excursion.  Craig was super nice and super accommodating.  He put us up for 3 nights and showed us some of the best and worst bars in the city.  The first, Cock n’ Bull was actually a bar we went to out of default because the bar we wanted to attend had a queue.  This bar ended up being awesome.  The drinks flowed and the dance music was amazing.

Em and Richie, plus an amazing photo bomb from John Doe in back

Em, Craig and Conrad

Check out Craig on the right…he's channeling James Vanderbeek

Lions are playing…ROAR!  Yeah Monday Night Football is actually Tuesday here

Couch surfing = Free lodging in Brisbane….Thanks Craig!
The second day, we headed to the Lone Pine Koala sanctuary.  I've already been (last year), so I did some travel research while they went inside.


This Bush Turkey kept me company in the wifi area

and so did this big ass lizard

Richie spooning joey

Em and Richie
 Here are some photos from when I went last year.

Koala hugging

Terrorizing giant kangaroos
After Lone Pine, we took a trip to South Bank.  We missed a couple of trains so it took us an extra hour to get there.  There were cute little shops and vendors in an outdoor market.  The boys grabbed a beer while Richie and I did a little browsing.  (Ladies, he is single and awesome if you’re interested….he will totally hold your pocketbook and not think twice or grumble about it audibly.)

That night, we went to a rooftop club, who’s name escapes me (sorry).  The view was incredible.  The outdoor patio was awesome and the people watching was sufficient.  Not good enough, however, to make up for their shit DJ so we left thinking it couldn’t get worse.  

Craig, Conrad, Em, Richie 
Amazing view...

"I'll save you from this deejay…"
We were wrong… the Down Under Backpacker Bar was the worst bar I have ever been to.  First of all, I realized that I am now old. I am 34.5.  I was 15 years older than every other person in that bar aside from my friends.  #epicfail.  OMG! I was the old lady at the bar. OMG! WE WERE THE OLD PEOPLE AT THE BAR!  I tried to put it past me and make the best of it, but I was beyond relieved when the boys suggested we leave.  We headed to a 3rd bar that had exactly 3 people in it and one of them was sweeping the floors.  So, we went back to close the night at the first club.  We actually met some Zimbabweans there and danced until around 3AM before calling it a night.

Back to the original bar

On Sunday, my friends in Brisbane were having a pool party so we headed there.  Prior to, however, we decided to start the day with Maccas for brekky (McDonald's for breakfast)!  But, we got there after 11, so we really just had burgers and fries for breakfast.  

The pool party was super fun and that was where Conrad, Richie and I parted ways for the near future.  I stayed with my friend, Lance, and they headed back to Craig’s house because they were flying out the following day.  It was an amazing trip and I’m so fortunate to have made such a good friend and meet up with him on another continent.  I’d like to formally submit an application to be in the Richie Rubenstein fan club.

Timmy, Lance and Em


Christmas Eve, I decided to go to the beach for a bike ride and to get a little tan.  The weather was beautiful and so was the beach.

Surfers Paradise in the distance
Pacific Ocean = 3rd Ocean in 3 months
Burleigh Heads Beach, Queensland, Australia
That night, Lance and I drove up to his parents' house.  They were absolutely lovely and warm and I was very grateful for the invitation to spend Christmas with their family.  That night, Lance and his parents, Sharon and Jeff, and I walked around their street to check out the Christmas lights.  There were 4-5 houses on the block that were trying to give Candy Cane Lane in Los Angeles a run for their money. 


Oh My God, Krispy Kreme Australia makes Christmas tree donuts with a Kit Kat stem.  I vowed that I MUST try one, eventually… Bianca surprised me with one on New Years Day!!!


Christmas was lovely.  The food was delicious and everyone was really nice.  We played a rowdy game of Left, Right Center with the kids and tried desperately to avoid being selected for the dance contest that his young cousins were initiating.  It was a really fun night.  Lance had to leave early for work, so his roommate Bianca picked me up from the family’s house and we spent the night at their friend, Dave’s house in the city.  Dave lived in a super rad loft right inside Brisbane’s central business district.  Again, we drank a lot.  Trying to sober up with Indian food was no match for the amount of alcohol we consumed. At some point we started doing “stupid human tricks” and competing to find the  “funniest youtube video”. 

Trav can whistle with every finger on either hand
I can cluck like a chicken

Dave can *almost swallow his fist.

When we were leaving, my right arm and leg started itching like crazy and all of these crazy bug bites started appearing.  What the fuck?  Midges…..AKA sand flies.  Apparently, I got eaten alive when I was at the beach and didn't know it.  They took nearly 48 hours to appear.  The delayed reaction was so confusing that I was sure I had contracted something disgusting.  4 hours or so of Internet research finally narrowed out measles, mumps, bedbugs, fleas and scabies….gross!  Try googling “itchy red bites”….its both fascinating and disgusting.

This was my right forearm
This is my right calf
Lance was working a lot this week since it was a holiday and his department was short on people, so Bianca stepped in as my Gold Coast BFF. The following day she took me back up to Brisbane for a night in with one of her friends.  We played pool, drank wine and worked out while eating ice cream.

WORST PHOTO EVER!  I'm pretty sure peddling didn't offset the calories in the ice cream
The following afternoon, we met up around 4PM for her friend Mena’s 31st birthday party.  I had lost track of the days since I am on vacation and it was during the holidays so I totally thought we were day drinking on Sunday. As such, we drank a lot. I don’t love day drinking, but this was a fun group so it was worth it.  Oh wait, I found out it was actually Saturday and we were going out for the long haul.  I drank too much too soon and I was pooped out by 9PM. Fortunately, a coffee with Bailey’s had me wired well past 2AM when we left the club. And, it wasn’t until nearly 4:30AM that we finally went to bed.

So far, Australia has been a whole lot of drinking.  I imagine it was just because of the holidays, but I'm pretty sure I have gained a kilo. I have never resolved to lose weight, but I might need to add losing a couple of kilos to my new year's resolution...

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