We packed up a barbie, some chairs, an inflatable kayak and we were off, driving on the left side of the road on the other side of the world.
I had just arrived in Australia, my first out of country experience, and I was wide-eyed and bushy-tailed for who I’d meet, where I’d go and what I’d see.
I decided to check out Brisbane for about 2 weeks during my stay in Oz. In order to fit my budget (and to learn what was like for an Australian family), I did a home stay which I organized through Helpx. *Side note: I can’t say enough about Helpx, travelers! Don’t be put off by the subscription fee. It’s been worth every dime and more!*
I stayed with a youngish, modern and hip couple called Angie and Gary. Angie worked for the local government while Gary was a chef at a nearby college. They met in London years ago and since had traveled the world together. They opened their home to travelers in order to show Clancy, their young daughter, the ways of the world.
I arrived as Fresh American Meat. When Gary picked me up from the train station and we arrived home he announced, “I found an American!”
That day I was greeted with a lovely lunch and some introductory conversations. But then we were off to explore.
Wivenhoe Dam was on the agenda, about 50 miles from Brisbane. We ended up at a place that’s actually an artificial lake, which made swimming safe (no crocs to worry about!)
As Gary inflated the kayak and Clancy put on her lifejacket and immediately took to the water, Angie pointed in the distance.
“Look there they are! Some kangaroos!”
I almost fell over in shock. Wild kangaroos were galloping and bouncing about. I definitely was somewhere far away from home.
Where was I? What day was it? How was I on the other side of the world where marsupials bounced around freely? I grew up in the Midwest of America with the likes of squirrels and deer. To be honest, kangaroos are a bit mangy and not very cute. They’re just as common as deer back in the U.S., but that didn’t make it any less cool to see them hopping around.
Gary and I paddled in the kayak around the lake, taking in the scenery. He was very curious about me and admitted to adoring America and Americans.
“So what do you think of this place?” Gary asked me.
I could see were enormous, beautiful bluish grey mountains in the horizon. The sun was hot on my face and the sunglasses I had borrowed from Angie kept slipping off my nose. All I could conjure up was that this area of Australia reminded me of a tropical Vermont.
I think that observation amused Gary because I heard him repeat it several times throughout my stay with them. Having traveled America extensively, he was very familiar with the North east and I think his laugh was in a surprised agreement. What a strange pairing, Vermont and Australia. But what can I say? It worked.
We had a delicious barbecue next to the lake as the sun set. Typical fare was had like sausages, bread, steaks and chips.
Shortly thereafter, I went to the bathroom and almost sat on the biggest toad I’ve ever seen camped out in the toilet. I then saw an enormous spider, the likes of something you’d see in a zoo. To Ozzies, that’s the norm. They’re just part of the Australian package.
Let it be known: if you’re weary of wildlife, exercise caution when planning your Australian holiday! I never let it get the best of me, but the squirmish better beware.
After sunset we left and I felt lucky and happy to be taken in by such a kind family who wanted to show me their little slice of Queensland heaven.