Day trip to Australia Zoo and a few days in Noosa

Despite the early fire alarm in our hostel in Brisbane, we were up, checked out, and at the coach station in good time for our Greyhound bus. Our next destination was Noosa but we were making a stop off at Australia Zoo (Steve Irwin’s zoo) along the way. It was easy as the Greyhound bus got us to the zoo for 9am and then another coach picked us up late that afternoon so we had a whole day to see all the animals. We took our rucksacks and stored them in lockers at the zoo for the day to save us lugging them about.

Once that was all sorted out I had such a good day visiting the zoo! It was the Easter holidays so it although it was teeming with families with tearaway toddlers, it that meant that we actually got to see a Crocodile show with Teri, Bindi and Robert Irwin where they fed a huuuge croc. The language they used to talk about the crocodiles was really interesting as they kept emphasising how they are mostly misunderstood creatures and that whilst they can be scary it’s all about respecting the animal and understanding their behaviour. Having said that, there’s no way I would have wanted to be in that arena with that crocodile!

Other animals we saw included kangas and koalas (of course!) Below are some snaps and yes, that is a selfie with a kangaroo… The koalas are so sleepy and you’re lucky if you see one blink let alone move from their perch! Whilst at Australia Zoo we also saw lots more koalas, otters, alligators, snakes in the reptile house, birds in the aviary, tigers, giraffes and much more. All in all a fab day.

 

We collected our bags from the lockers and waited for our bus outside the zoo. Typically it was late, but that didn’t matter too much as it wasn’t a long journey to get to Noosa. When we arrived at the bus stop the driver kindly pointed us in the direction of our hostel, and so we walked through the town’s main street to get there – luckily Nomaads hostel wasn’t too far away. We waited to be checked in, got into our room and headed out to the supermarket for dinner. For some reason my maps app took us a really random way…through a dark park littered with toads… I almost stepped on one several times! After ending up in the car park at the back of the shop thanks to said maps, we were finally in the supermarket looking for dinner. I think we were all in need of a lot of vegetables as we landed on stir-fry as our meal of choice. We got one of those packs of stir-fry veggies, an extra pepper, a jar of sweet and sour sauce and some microwaveable brown rice. It was a meal with all colours of the rainbow – yes, we were those people in the hostel that everyone eating pasta and instant noodles envied, and it was amazing. (We may have also purchased three chocolate easter bunnies on offer for $1 each – no shame here).

For our time in Noosa we hadn’t planned anything in particular apart from knowing that we wanted to see the national park. Unfortunately we ascertained pretty quickly that there was no cheap way (at least, without a car) to see the nearby everglades, and as we couldn’t afford to spare hundreds of dollars, we settled for seeing what was in walking distance. Speaking to the travel advice guy in the hostel, he panicked us with his shock reaction that we hadn’t planned and booked all of our New Zealand Kiwi Experience buses yet. We were confused because we didn’t really know how it worked but didn’t think we had to plan everything exactly in advance – we didn’t know how long we were going to want to stay in each place. As the weather was miserable anyway we decided to find a cafe to camp out at whilst we looked into it and essentially have an admin morning. We found a cute independent cafe on the main shopping street and ordered large coffees to fuel our planning session. I won’t bore you with the details but we looked at maps, timetables and did a lot of internet research.

For lunch we had the sandwiches we had made that morning when we had intended to go out to the national park, but they came in useful nonetheless. When we’d finally had enough of planning we decided to go for a walk to the beach on the other side of town. Although it was still raining on and off, we donned our raincoats and set off on a much-needed walk. The beach itself was really refreshing; not at all sunbathing weather but it’s always enjoyable to be by the sea.

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After spending some time at the beach we headed back into town and went to the supermarket for dinner again. The kitchen at the hostel was tiny and so unorganised but we made do, guarding a hob fiercely so nobody else swooped in whilst we drained our pasta!

That evening we headed into town to see Beauty and the Beast at the cinema; this was a great film which I thoroughly enjoyed. I didn’t realise until the very end that Ewan McGregor played Lumiere – for some reason I thought they’d actually picked a French actor haha. We took what was remaining of our chocolate bunnies (*cough* Rhianna *cough*) which although was yummy, it turns out it’s really easy to get chocolate ALL down yourself. And because it was dark there was no way to see you needed to clean it off before the chocolate has melted onto your clothes!

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The bus we had booked up to Hervey Bay didn’t leave until the evening so we got up and checked out of the hostel. Leaving our bags in their luggage storage we walked to the other side of town to the main beach. This was a lot busier than the beach we went to the day before and there was a strip of shops and restaurants on Hastings Road alongside the beach. The main beach was packed full of families enjoying the sun with kids running about eating ice-cream. We headed along the beach and followed the trail into the national park – although we didn’t get to see the everglades we at least walked through the national park. As much as we looked we couldn’t see any wild koalas we were told lived in the trees, but the walk along the coast was lovely- you’ve got to love some fresh air and a sea breeze.

Deciding to treat ourselves to a late lunch/early dinner, we made our way back to the restaurants and found a cafe that did ciabatta sandwiches/burgers for $15 with chips. The food was fab and definitely hit the spot.

It was time to get back over to the hostel, collect our bags and walk through town to the bus stop via the ‘liquor store’ to get a goon for our trip to Fraser Island.

It was only a four hour bus to Hervey Bay which isn’t far in Aussie terms, but we found ourselves tired and thinking it was later than it was because the sun went down so early. We had booked into a hostel for the night called Aussie Woolshed, which was a 20 minute walk from the Greyhound drop-off point. However, we didn’t have to walk in the end as a woman doing a pick up for another hostel kindly offered us a lift – result! We arrived at the hostel and found our room, it turns out we’d been upgraded from the 8 bed doorm we booked to a 4 bed seemingly private room; there were no bunks and a telly in the room. I was wrecked so I watched some ‘Would I Lie to You?’ on the TV in my pjs whilst Katie and Rhianna went for a little explore. A great result and a great end to a chilled couple of days.

 

Thanks for reading folks xoxo

Crossing time zones to Brisbane

Arriving into Brisbane’s transit centre on the coach an hour later than we anticipated, we caught the metro and walked another ten minutes to our hostel, Bunk. We were initially confused as to why all the timings at the station were an hour out, but it turns out that Queensland is an hour behind New South Wales – we weren’t going crazy after all! The reception area of the hostel gave a great first impression, with lots of comfy sofas, armchairs and spots to sit with a laptop. When going to check in, there was a problem with our booking – even though we’d booked three beds through Hostelworld, their booking system had only registered two beds…uh-oh. Plus, it was a Friday so the hostel was pretty full. Thankfully the receptionist swiftly sorted us out, putting us in a private room as that was the only room available (winning) and charged us for a cheaper room than what we’d booked for the ‘inconvenience’! Not bad ey? It was a double bed with a single bunk on top, and there was an en-suite too which even had mini toiletries. Backpacking luxury! I had such a lush long shower, whilst the others went food shopping. I felt sparkling clean, it was incredible.

For some reason all three of us really fancied fajitas for dinner so we splashed out and got all the ingredients, including salsa and sour cream – yum! Before we made dinner we headed down to the hostel bar to use the drinks voucher we had been given by reception. Most hostels seemed to do this in Aus and they almost always have a specific time you can use them, e.g. between 7-8pm to get you down to the bar. By a huuge coincidence we bumped into friends from university Aiden and Rosie in the bar! They were doing a semester abroad in Sydney but happened to be in Brisbane for the weekend and happened to be staying in the same hostel – madness! So we caught up with them and decided to go out and explore the city’s nightlife after dinner. Aiden was super tired but Rosie came out with us and we ended up having a great night in a bar that played retro tunes.

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Hostel bar pink drinks

Seeing as we’d been out late the night before, we had decided to have a nice lie-in and not set any alarms. We woke up embarrassingly late (or impressively depending how you look at it) and had a leisurely breakfast that was basically lunch, before heading out into the city to the Southbank. We wandered through the city’s main shopping street, with Rhianna popping into Apple to buy an SD adapter to replace the one she’d sadly lost, and me getting a pretty water bottle in Typo to replace the one I’d bought that continually leaked. We continued to walk down to the river, passing a suitcase sale in front of the library along the way. This was basically a small scale car boot sale, with everyone selling clothes and shoes out of a suitcase. I think it’s a really cool idea and we should definitely have suitcase sales in the UK. Katie found a bargain luggage tag for a $1 which was coincidentally from Typo. Result.

This is a glimpse of what Brisbane’s Southbank looks like. There are definitely similarities to London’s Southbank, there being lots of restaurants, an arts centre, theatre and museum all along the waterfront. However, London does not have an artificial beach in the middle of the city! I guess it’s because Brisbane is basically the only Aussie city that isn’t on the coast so they’ve tried to make up for it! We wandered along the river, walking through all these shady paths decorated with lanterns to keep out of the sun, before returning to the beach to chill out on the sand. As it was a weekend there were loads of kids playing and having fun in the lagoon, and families in restaurants or having barbecues nearby. That’s something I noticed about public spaces in Australia, there are lots of free to use barbecues with picnic benches which is pretty awesome. We stayed at the beach until the sun had set and then made our way back across town to the hostel via Eagle street pier which consisted of lots of nice restaurants on the riverfront. Unfortunately we couldn’t buy more food for fajitas again as the supermarket had shut, so instead we bought some pasta sauce from the convenience store near our hostel and had spaghetti followed by a relaxed evening.

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Brisbane at night

The following morning we made sure we got up earlier than the day before, having brekkie then heading out to the shop to get some snacks. Katie and I also needed to get a charger as mine had broken and she had lost hers, so we unwillingly spent $20 on a replacement. Obviously not a fun purchase but a necessity nonetheless. Walking further into the city, we walked along the river into the pretty botanical gardens. It was so nice to have a big green space in the middle of the city. We explored the gardens, with a quick pit stop to go on the swings in the park…before continuing through the city back towards the Southbank. We found a Brisbane sign that we didn’t spot the previous day, and that was fun seeing all the kids (and Katie and Rhianna) try to climb on it! We were keen to go to the art gallery there, but unfortunately it was shut when we got there! Story of my life with museums and galleries, they always seem to be shut! We found out that there was the Queensland Museum and Sciencentre nearby that was open and was free to visit, so we made a beeline round the corner.

Inside there was a really interesting exhibition about the planets with loads of incredible photos of the solar system, as well as another exhibition about extinct creatures and the impact humans are having on the planet. There was also an extensive taxidermy exhibition displaying so many different animals which Katie in particular was not a fan of. So we went round quickly and decided it was time for some food.

As expensive as Australia is compared to Southeast Asia, we decided to treat ourselves to a restaurant meal for a late lunch. We had heard good things about a burger chain called Grill’d when we asked for recommendations in Sydney, and as there was one close by it was a sign. We were pretty ravenous at this point so I think we would have thought anything was decent food, but the verdict on the burgers was good, and the sweet potato fries we shared were lush too. There was certainly more salad in the burger than any I’ve had in the UK, so trying to fit it all in one bite was a bit of a challenge! But I’m happy to say we all hoovered our food up without any other problems.

That evening we had our much sought after fajitas again as the shops were open this time. We had to be up really early to catch a 7:30am bus so we had another chilled evening and a fairly early night. There was however, a slight hiccup in this plan when the fire alarm went off at 5am and the whole building had to filter out onto the street. After waiting outside for half an hour or so for the all clear to get back in the building, it wasn’t long before we had to get up and get going anyway *sighs*.

I think all three of us were sad to leave Brisbane and could have happily stayed there for a few more days exploring the city. But we continued onwards to Australia Zoo and then to Noosa, which I will tell you all about in my next post.

Thanks for reading folks xo

Surfing in a cyclone (kind of) in Byron Bay

After a 13 hour night bus we arrived in Byron Bay a little dazed and confused. Who’d have thought that you’d get more sleep on the night buses in Southeast Asia with their fully reclining seats? Amazingly there was someone from the hostel waiting to give us a lift so we didn’t have to walk to the hostel – result. They gave us a mini tour of the town along the way which was handy, even in our tired state. The three of us checked in and managed to book two extra nights which was really lucky; if we’d headed further north we’d have been stuck in cyclone Debbie! This ‘surf n stay’ was our first experience in our Oz experience cruiser package so we got one night accommodation for ‘free’, a surf lesson, breakfast and dinner. So we booked our surf lesson for the next morning and walked into town to explore and get some food supplies.

I really liked the atmosphere in Byron, a small and vibrant surfer town, with lots of hippy clothing shops and cute independent eateries. Like the typical backpackers we are however, we headed straight to Aldi to get lunch and other supplies instead, including an ice-cream for the walk back to the hostel in the sun. As the hostel was right on the beachfront, we made sandwiches and headed out onto the beach to eat them and soak up some rays. Below is a photo of the lovely beach. That evening we had a barbecue provided by the hostel, made some friends with some German backpackers and played cards.

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Byron Bay isn’t too shabby

The next morning we had our included surf school breakfast of toast and cereal and got into our swimmers ready for our surf lesson. If you’re wondering what the conditions were like for our lesson, our instructor described the waves as ‘teachable’ and the pouring rain that accompanied this was in fact the tail end of cyclone Debbie. Great. We were all first time surfers so we were daunted by this but still determined to have a decent go at it anyway. We plodded down to the beach with the boards and had a pep talk teaching up how to stand up on the board. I can safely say it’s a lot easier when you’re stationary on sand! As I couldn’t wear my glasses I had to leave them on the beach but because it was pelting it down with rain nobody else could really see that much more than me. It was fun but a lot of work – if I want to be a professional surfer I’d need probably 90% more arm strength than I currently possess! I sadly didn’t get to stand up fully, more of a crouch, but Rhianna did and I think Katie did too. Though for me the hardest bit was battling against the waves to get back into the sea! I definitely want to try again in calmer weather though.

When we got back to the hostel, everyone else was sheltering undercover or inside and looked at us like we were mad! Strangely it was warmer in the sea than on the beach (only in Oz!) so we all really needed a long hot shower to warm up. Funny story, I did get stung by a jellyfish on my hand (if you’re wondering no-one had to wee on it! 🙈), all it needed was to be run under really hot water in the shower to bring out the sting. It was a bit sore for the next couple of days but I survived to tell the tale.

That evening we went to get our free meal from the surf school. Usually the hostel put on a food option like the barbecue we had the previous evening, but tonight it was a meal out in a bar called Cheeky Monkeys. It was still raining so we got the shuttle bus (yes this bar had it’s own shuttle bus) and we got to order what we wanted off the menu and the surf school paid for it, and we got some free drinks vouchers too. I had a huge basket of calamari and chips, Katie had a massive burger, and Rhianna went big with a steak. We were all happy and pretty full in no time. We headed back to the hostel to make ourselves more presentable before getting the bus again to make the most of our free drink vouchers. At this point the wind was picking up and the rain wasn’t stopping either. We carried on with our evening, having some free fizz and a bit of a dance.

When we decided it was time to go back to the hostel, we got our raincoats from the cloakroom and headed out into the deluge. Debbie had definitely arrived! It was raining so hard that by the time we were under shelter a few metres down the road, we were completely soaked. The main crossroads in the town centre was flooded, so to cross we had to wade through the shin-height water to get to the other side! It was crazy. The funny thing was that the next day everything had drained and you’d never have know it was flooded at all!

 

Wading back to the hostel
So much water!

However, flooding further up the coast in meant we were having difficulty booking our experiences, particularly Fraser Island and the Whitsundays. So as there was a Greyhound office in Byron, we headed there to try and get things sorted. It turns out that the head office in Brisbane was also shut due to flooding so we had to make a few trips to get everything booked when the office re-opened. We used the rubbish weather to our advantage and sorted out as many buses as we could using the computers in the office and eventually we managed to get our Fraser Island trip and Whitsundays trip for the dates we wanted – phew!

 

We also made use of the cinema that doubled/tripled up as a brewery and an arts centre! We went to see Manchester by the Sea, starring Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams; whilst it definitely wasn’t a laugh a minute film, the acting was good and it was poignant and well executed.

Our last night in Byron was a more relaxed affair. We made spag bol and chilled out in front of the telly. Katie and Rhianna went to the beach for a walk but weren’t out for long as it was apparently pretty scary in the pitch black. The next morning we checked out of the hostel but we still had a few hours to kill before our coach up to Brisbane. Luckily this wasn’t cancelled because they’d just re-opened the highway. As it wasn’t pouring with rain we went on a walk up along the coast to the lighthouse.

Heading back to the hostel to pick up our bags, we walked into town and stopped by the bakery on the way to the bus stop. I had a delicious carrot cake slice, yum. All in all I thoroughly enjoyed Byron Bay, despite Debbie paying us a visit!

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To the lighthouse

Chapter two: arriving in Aus!

A long day and night of travelling and a delayed flight behind us, we arrived in Sydney! After being in Southeast Asia for the past month it was strange to be somewhere that seemed familiar – there was a WHSmith in arrivals and a big poster with the Queen’s face all over it! We headed into the city on the train, getting ourselves an Opal card (Oyster card equivalent) so we could get about for the next few days. Our hostel ‘790 on George’ was just around the corner from central station, funnily enough on George Street, so it wasn’t too difficult to find. We couldn’t check in yet as we were there too early so we dumped our bags and went for a wander. All three of us were pretty tired from our overnight flight and all we wanted to do was sleep, but we needed to power through to make the most of our time in Sydney.

The weather wasn’t particularly nice considering we all thought Aus was going to be gloriously sunny all the time! Instead the skies were grey, the temperature cool and accompanied by the occasional drizzle of rain. Safe to say Katie in particular was not happy! We walked through Tumbalong Park (great name) where there was a festival going on – lots of food stalls, music and people soaking up the atmosphere. We went to see what was going on and it turned out to be a Thai festival which was hilarious considering that’s exactly where we’d just arrived from! I couldn’t even comprehend buying anything from the food stalls knowing how much cheaper the food was in Thailand. Continuing towards Darling Harbour we walked along the waterfront. We had a few things to pick up so we went to the Harbourside Shopping Centre for a bit of retail therapy. It was here that we discovered the a clothes shop called Cotton On and the amazing Typo (a shop that is basically Paperchase and therefore I wanted everything they sold). After a while looking around the shops we got peckish and looked for some lunch. I settled on some yummy chicken pittas from a place that was similar to Nandos. It was strange going from the dirt cheap prices of southeast Asia as everything seemed like too much money, but obviously we just had to get used to Australian prices. It also felt strange to not stand out as much as tourists (apart from the accent) and not be approached by people trying to sell you something every five seconds.

The following day was more like what we expected from Australian weather as it was hot and sunny again. Thankfully the weather was nowhere near as humid as Southeast Asia so the heat was a lot more bearable. After a nice lie-in we took this opportunity to take the ferry over from Circular Quay to Manly Island, which my lovely mum recommended as you get the best view of the Opera House. Moreover we picked the right day to go because on Sundays all travel using Opal cards is capped at $2.50 which included the ferry journey, brilliant. Evidently everyone else had the same idea as us because when we got to the ferry terminal there was a huuuge queue stretching on and on – we were very lucky as we were the last people to be let on the boat. Here’s the fab view of the Opera House I snapped from the boat, with not a cloud in sight:

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We spent a lovely day on Manly Island perusing the craft market, choosing new sunglasses for Katie, walking along the promenade looking at the sea, getting ice cream and picnic things from the supermarket and eating under a tree with the beach right in front of us. The weather was brilliant so Katie was happy again! On the way back we caught the ferry just in time to see sunset as we were heading back into the harbour. I was so lucky to get the beautiful picture below, it really looks like the sun is coming out of the bridge:

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The next day in Sydney was also a glorious one, and today we had decided to head out of the city to the Blue Mountains, getting the train out to Katoomba and walking through the town to see the Three Sisters. Along the way we did a supermarket stop to pick up some fruit snacks and sandwich stuff for lunch. It was about a half an hour walk from the train station to the Queen Elizabeth lookout, but it was certainly worth it for the views!

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Here you can see the Three Sisters and a tiny stretch of the national park. The eucalyptus gives the trees the blue colour you can see, hence the name of the mountains. We took in the view and had our lunch looking out across the mountains – lush! We then did a cliff walk along to the funicular (I think that’s what it was), pausing at different viewpoints  along the way for photos and to look at the amazing views. At the end of the walk the sun was starting to set so we decided to head back to the train, but not before we payed a quick visit to this pretty waterfall we found.

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So it was our final day in Sydney. We did a quick look around the shops in the town centre, getting a jumper for Rhianna before using our Opal cards once more, getting the bus out of the city to Bondi Beach. To be honest I’m not sure why it’s as famous as it is. Although the weather wasn’t the best, it was a little grey and chilly, it looked like a beach that could have easily been in the UK. There were lots of surfer shops and cafes: we went for a coffee in a cafe called Swell that had old silver teapots on each table with cutlery and napkins – super cute.

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We headed back to Sydney city centre and went straight to an area called Newtown for dinner. We had heard great things about this vegan restaurant called ‘Lentil as Anything’ from someone we met on our travels in Vietnam (shout out to Bianca!) so we had to go and try it. There was a queue outside and everyone dined together, squeezed in whatever space possible, and that the menu changes daily depending on who is in the kitchen. The idea is that you pay what you can afford, supporting the refugee community – great stuff. Here’s a slightly blurry photo of the scrummy curry plate I had:

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We had time for a quick drink at a rooftop bar, where I also learned what a schooner is (essentially a half pint), before we got the train back into the centre in time for our night bus up the coast to Byron Bay.