Like many of Rebecca's and Gadi's close family and friends I have been following their exiting trip since the very beginning. That is no longer the case since I've been given the honour of taking part in the last leg of their journey, and getting away from our sunny, yet very cold Canadian Winter. After the usual airport mess and several near-missed flights I was finally reunited with them in Sydney after ten long months.
The reunion party was to be short-lived, as was my first visit to Sydney, because straight away it was off to Newcastle and the first stop on our way to the Great Barrier Reef. The view and ambiance of Newcastle driving in was unimpressive to say the least, especially with public urination in broad daylight. All hope was not lost, because the next day we continued north to the quaint town of Port Macquarie, home of the Koala hospital. While we were disappointed that we weren't allowed to hold the poor little devils, we were thrilled that they weren't asleep when we arrived.
At the invitation of Rebecca's and Gadi's new-found close friends Nathan and Becca, we continued on the Brisbane where I was to have my first experience in a big Australian city. Like most big cities, Brisbane has a lot to offer locals and tourists with extensive resources, but for backpackers on a budget, we could always enjoy the healthy blend of older and modern architecture from the river cruise.
From Brisbane it was off to Hervey Bay where we would embark on journey of excitement and discovery into the Australian wild, and plenty of 4x4 driving. We booked the self guided tour of Fraser Island where we were grouped with travelers like us from all corners of Europe. The trip included everything from the most crystal clear freshwater lakes, just like the pictures in the brochures and miles of gorgeous, yet shark infested coastlines. The trip was also one of great enlightenment, for instance we learned that Dingoes, for all their fierce reputation, are nothing more than a pack of pussies scavenging for people food. Our group was foolish enough to the leave the grease-covered grill overnight only to be covered with dingo prints the following morning.
We were also introduced by our Dutch counterparts to their peculiar concept and custom of swaffeling, something that has been known to cause international incidents. It basically involves hitting one's semi-erect penis against other persons, objects, and world-famous landmarks. No more details necessary.
However, by far the most memorable experience on the Fraser Island tour was the outcome of me drinking too much cask wine, locally known as "goon." There were already several achievements that I had done, such as displaying my aptitude for the butterfly swim, and speaking German (according to them) without an accent, something so far I've been unable to replicate in my own language. Nevertheless, my moment of applause came when a busload of tourists specifically stopped to witness me getting sick from the combination of excessive goon and 4x4 bouncing, I didn't feel like walking too far from the road. Nothing a swim in the crystal clear Lake McKenzie can't fix.
The last destination in Australia, and the most North that we would come was Airle Beach, from where we would experience the edge of the Great Barrier Reef. The sailing tour we booked involved snorkeling to see exotic tropical fish and coral, visits to beaches of sand so pure it doesn't heat, reef sharks no larger than a cat, and some sailing. We thought that while snorkeling we had found Nemo and his parents, however upon verifying with the chart we were disappointed to find that they were only found his long-lost cousins.
Our Australian Outbackish experience was complete, and it was time to return to Sydney and civilization. In two days we drove more than two thousand kilometers, a feat admired by many locals. Though my time was limited, Sydney made a lasting impression on me which I hope to enjoy one day soon in the future. A visit with my army friend Josh resulted in a day of sailing on the harbour to see a race of the fastest sailing ships in the world. At night time we explored the vast variety of culinary treats, from world-famous Sydney meat pies to churros that rival the very same in Madrid.
And so concluded our short yet very sweet tour of the land down under. I still never understood why the British sent their convicts to a land of Paradise. While there we compiled a list of our five favorite activities;
5. Learn to drive on the left and not confuse the turn signal with the wiper blade lever
4. Master the Aussie accent and language
3. Learn to pronounce local towns and cities
2. Spot live wildlife, including koalas and kangaroos
1. Try not to run them over