Tag: Queensland

A Day at Wivenhoe Dam, Australia

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.

Meet Clancy. This girl has style!

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!)

A day at the dam

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.

Straight up chillin’. Australia’s hot, yo!

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.

Fire up the barbie

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.

A Sunday in Kuranda Village

I’m driving with two Couchsurfers through tropical north Queensland, up and up, through the rainforest toward Kuranda village. The wind blows through our hair and we practice our German accents while Zeppelin blasts on the radio. We’re looking out for Cassowaries and wild cockatoos, our wallets fat with the prospect of buying didgeridoos and locally made crafts from the Djabugay Aborigines.

A view from the top.

While our White Pickup truck twists and turns through the dense rainforest, we almost miss a scenic lookout of Cairns city. We step out of the car to watch the Coral Sea glimmer in the distance like a million diamond-studded wrists, beckoning tourists and locals alike to sail out, to discover the wonderful coral cities that lie underneath the water’s surface.

It’s Sunday afternoon and we’re sweating in the balmy “city center” (population: 1,600) perusing artisan stalls, examining wild flora and spiders, snapping pictures of locals enjoying a smoke and their afternoon coffee in this hippie meets yuppie mecca. Homemade ice cream soothes our thirsty tongues and my German friend Linnea buys a pair of pants from a dreadlocked purveyor.

“Are these a little much?” Linnea asks me. “Red’s too loud, isn’t it?”

The pants look like they’ve been waiting to hug her hips her whole life.

“They’re perfect.” I start. “Who else do you know that owns a pair of red pants?”

She completes the purchase and we’re off to Barron Gorge Falls. We ask someone to “make a picture” of us, as Linnea would incorrectly, yet endearingly say. Somehow “making” pictures felt right.

We bushwalk barefoot for a while before coming back down to Earth, beginning our slow, winding descent, pausing only momentarily to burn the leeches off of our calloused feet.

Another way to get to Kuranda Village is by taking the Scenic Railway through the Macalister Range.
Locals enjoying their Sunday at the Rainforest Markets.
Barron Gorge Falls.
(From left to right) Me, Linnea and her red pants.

Going, going, gone!

I’m not sure if I’m ready to accept how incredible the last six weeks of my life has been. I have SO much material to work off of for blog posts, pitches for travel magazines and envy-inspiring Facebook posts.

I’m in Los Angeles, recovering from jetlag, letting my entire trip marinade. I swam with turtles and sharks while snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef. I climbed mountains, swam in pools, oceans, dams, and strangers’ bathtubs. I saw baby crocodiles in the wild. I stumbled upon some of the most beautiful stretches of beaches I’d ever hope to explore. I bush-walked in the rainforest. I came really close to a sea eagle. I held a koala in Queensland. This was the trip of dreams.

Serenity now. Meditating over a view of Cairns city, tropical Queensland, Australia

I’m really excited to share my experiences on these blogs along with my musings about traveling, developing a budget travel mindset, the differences between Australia and the United States and generally chronicling my entire adventure.

Before I left, I was electric with questions like, “Who will I meet?” and “Where will I go?” Now I’m trying to tame the “Was that real life?” feeling and exhilaration that is only felt after an epic journey.

My first international travel piece is getting published in Native Foreigner Magazine in mid-April. I’m proud and eager to see what my first feature narrative story looks like in digital magazine format. It’s about a coastal walk I did from Sydney’s Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach. Stay tuned.

I’m going places.

Hell, I’ve BEEN places.

Photo of the day: Cattana Wetlands, Queensland, Australia

Photo of the day: Cattana Wetlands, Queensland, Australia

Walking in the Feather Palm Forest, Cattana Wetlands, 20 minutes from Cairns, Tropical North Queensland, Australia.

Is it enough to dream?

I keep having this recurring dream where I’m walking ocean side, along some craggy coast around sunset. The sun’s rays gleam out from behind fluffy white clouds, glimmering on the the water’s surface. Much to my horror and delight, just as the sun sinks into the horizon, the tide creeps in on me, at first slow, but then faster and faster. Suddenly I’m engulfed in mother ocean’s relentless tides, helpless and futile against the waves’ pull. Once again I’m carried out to sea.

It sounds nightmarish, like a tsunami threatening to wash away the land and all that inhabit it, but somehow, as the tide rolls in every night in my dreams, I feel a strange, familiar comfort. I’m taken in by my curiosities of travel, the ocean and Australia.

Walking from Bondi to Coogee Beach in Sydney

I’m on holiday for one month in Australia, currently residing in Queensland. I’m already quite dreading planning my departure. To wake with the hot sun on my face, to have breakfast on the patio with the wild cockatoos and rainbow lorikeets, to run and hide from all the too-big spiders, to plan my next bushwalking adventure- it’s somehow all I’ve ever known. I can only hope that the chance to continue to explore here presents itself to me.

Is it enough to dream of places undiscovered? Can I sleep soundly knowing that I might not wake to see one-one thousandth of the natural mysteries of Queensland and New South Wales, much-less Australia’s  entire east coast? The state between being awake and asleep, where nearly anything is possible, I imagine myself catching a nap under a palm tree on white silica sand beach somewhere near Fraser Island or the Whitsundays. I see myself, in an aerial view, facedown, back burning, snorkeling a colorful and pristine reef outside of Cairns. I watch myself dance salsa at a bar on a Friday with fellow travelers, laughing and making memories I might never know.

As I calm my thoughts and finally drift into sleep, it’s the promise of tomorrow’s adventures that keep my dream alive. During my slumber, I notice the sun dipping into the horizon, and watch the waves break as they come to carry me away once more.

Wivenhoe Dam, sunset