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Gold Coast

Byron Bay Waves Crashing HaradTen hours crammed amongst fifty-nine backpackers and one senior citizen in a red Greyhound Australia bus. Sleep was precious overnight due to frequent pit stops, cramping legs, and over-served riders. At last, the hydraulic brakes gasped outside a quaint Byron Bay cafe. We had arrived at Australia’s famed Gold Coast. Finding lodging in this small yet busy beach town made our bed on six wheels look like a walk in the park. Alas, the only room available was $64 per person. Not a chance on our budget. After five hours of wandering the backpacker town, finding rest on the beach, or watching dolphins dance alongside kayakers, Ashley and I found our behinds plastered to pleather in an overcrowded minibus headed for Surfers Paradise, ninety minutes north.

Surfer Dude, SortaA cross between Miami and Panama City, modern skyscrapers housing Fortune 500 companies and four-bedroom penthouses abut raging dance clubs. Adjacent to the Pacific Ocean’s blue abyss lie saltwater canals carved into meandering roadways. The vacationers rest their eyes in the beachfront towers while the low budget travelers call the hostels hugging the channels home. After such a whirlwind night and day of travel, we killed two cockroaches and settled in a bed for the night. While in Surfers Paradise one must surf, right? With our wallet $10 lighter, I rented a board complete with a racing stripe. I begged Ash to give it a go, but she respectfully declined, opting to play photographer to the novice surfer dude instead. Paddling with all my might, the waves did their best to prevent my advancement beyond the break. The first two bouts with the crashing waves left me doing underwater somersaults and clamoring for my board. However, once I got the hang of it (last time I surfed was three months prior in Brazil), it was pure bliss. There is something about catching a wave that puts a jolt through your body. One twenty minute break to ease my tired arms and wash saltwater from my parched mouth and I was back in the sea catching yet another wet rollercoaster.

Picking A Wave Paddling Hard Surfing!

North of Surfers Paradise is Brisbane, Australia. Straddling the aptly named Brisbane River, this town could seamlessly fit in among America’s Rustbelt. Bouncing from shore to shore, slow catamarans ferry citizens and tourists across the brownish river. One attribute unique to Australian cities are the lagoons that are located in prime urban locations. Much of Australia’s coast is teeming with dangerous stingers (jellyfish) making it recommended to avoid finding relief from the heat in the bewitching saltwater. Brisbane is no different. Indeed, the lagoons are popular places regardless of the day of the week. Our walk through the city early one morning to watch the hapless Cincinnati Bungles lose in the NFL playoffs proved just how favored the place can be. It was filling up rapidly by the time we finished a cup of coffee.

Brisbane Lagoon A Forced Smile for the Bungles Brisbane Skyline

Ash with KangaroosBy far our favorite spot in Brisbane is the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. Don’t be fooled by its name, it houses many more animals than lazy eucalyptus chewing tree dwellers. A giant field of grass is home to numerous wallabies, kangaroos, and emus. We couldn’t believe how welcoming marsupials would be! Ash walked among a group of twenty-five kangaroos, even lifting their heavy tales and petting their pointy heads. I was fortunate to spend some time with a nursing adolescent right from his mother’s pouch. Just when we were making kangaroo friends, they hopped away and disappeared over the hill. So we trained our attention on another peculiar Aussie animal. Perhaps frightened by pop culture suggestions that they are dangerous, Ash was weary to approach the ostrich relative and I was not so sure myself, though I did get reasonably close.

10 Sheila Clutches to Ash Face in the Pouch

Ashley had been looking forward to holding a koala since we landed “down under.” She had the look of a proud mother despite Sheila’s claws digging in hard. She loved her furry companion and the feeling appeared mutual. However, the sanctuary limits the amount of time each koala is handled, so when Ash was finished, her koala was given the rest of the day to sit among the branches and nap. We then toured the various koala enclosures including the Kindergarten and Retirement Home. The defining difference between Lone Pine and an ordinary zoo is the close encounters the guests may experience. We were thrilled to be hanging out with Australia’s iconic kangaroos and handling a koala.

 - Greg and Ash

 Learn From Our Footsteps:

  1. Public buses run to the entrance of Line Pine Koala Sanctuary. Do not be misled by people telling you to hire a cab or join a tour group. Boats also provide transport, though the cost is significantly higher compared to the public autobus.
  2. Sleeping on the beach can be quite comfortable by creating a sand bed in under five minutes. Dig a hole wide enough for your hips while piling the removed sand where your head will lie. Place your beach blanket over the newly fashioned lounge chair and get situated for some shuteye.
  3. The ocean is full of treasure including money it turns out. I found an Australian $10 bill (big deal for backpackers) floating amid the surf in Byron Bay. So keep your eyes peeled when lounging in the sea.

  • http://www.thejetpacker.com/ The Jetpacker

    Admittedly, we're not too interested in making the long trek to Australia. But we're rethinking it now that we know we can actually hold a koala!

  • fofs

    Jetpacker – For the cost of going all the way to Australia, you might be able to just buy a koala and hold it all you want! Ashley held Sheila for all of four minutes.

    Thanks for reading,
    Greg and Ash

  • fofs

    Jetpacker – For the cost of going all the way to Australia, you might be able to just buy a koala and hold it all you want! Ashley held Sheila for all of four minutes.

    Thanks for reading,
    Greg and Ash

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