Getting back up to date on this, here are some timelines. I spent 12/16-12/19 in Noosa, arrived in Rainbow Beach the night of 12/19 and participated in a tour of Fraser Island from 12/20-12/22. I spent another night in Rainbow and then took a bus to Agnes Water on 12/23, where I am now! It is Christmas Eve, and as I sit in the outdoor common area amongst the palm trees, there is music playing in the background. I am content! Anyways, here’s the recap, buckle in because it’s a long one:
When I got to Noosa it was raining and pretty dreary, but I immediately felt a strong interest and connection to the town. Somehow as I looked around me, it was the exact type of beach town I had created in my head before arriving here. The type of place where you have tourists and locals alike, access to important amentities like buses, banks, etc., but also the small town vacation atmosphere; people visiting and passing through to experience the nature of the area, the beaches, shops and restaurants. Noosa is a winner! As a late lunch, I had a super good veggie burger and “avo chips”, basically avocado coated in everything bagel seasoning (yaaas), before settling into the hostel for the night. I stayed at the Noosa Heads YHA, which had a really great vibe! While it wasn’t the most modern hostel I’ve stayed in, the atmosphere was one of the best I’ve experienced. There was a huge indoor/outdoor common area which included a bar and small restaurant and plenty of people were hanging around. At 6:00, they actually held a welcome “meeting” for new arrivals so I joined that circle with a free glass of wine (goon). They briefly talked about the top things to do in the area, but then just opened it up to be a social thing. I talked to a few girls who had just started working for accommodation at the hostel and also chatted with 2 younger German girls, Lena and Julia and a Canadian guy named Spencer who is around my age. We had nice conversation over a few drinks that night and agreed to get back together in the morning to explore the National Park area just around the corner from our street.
The hike through the park was definitely a highlight, had beautiful ocean views from a boardwalk that led into a dirt path. While cloudy, the weather held out which was lucky. We probably walked a few miles total which felt good in the heat. I really like that most of these beach towns have some sort of coastal trail that allows you to go along the coastline and see the environment! I felt that Noosa was the first area I’ve noticed a rainforest feel to the beach; I know as I go further north in QLD this will only increase, and I am a fan! It was also nice to walk in a small group, which changed up the feel of doing a solo hike.
After the walk, we grabbed acai bowls for lunch, sooo good, and headed down the road to the other area of town called Noosa Junction, where there are additional shops/restaurants. We split up for a little to each explore a few things, and then Spencer and I got back together for a drink at a corner pub to hide from the rain. Safe to say I have another place to stay in Vancouver if I ever visit! 🙂 We all had a low key afternoon, played some cards and had dinner from a sushi shop around the corner.
On Tuesday morning I was up and ready early to catch the shuttle for a day-long kayaking excursion in the Everglades! The everglades on the Sunshine Coast are the second largest in the world (2nd to FL) and unlike Florida, they do not have any crocs hiding in the waters. I was part of a pretty decent sized group for the day and we drove about 30-40 minutes into the woods to get started. The company I did this with, Kanu Kapers, was clearly a small family run business and they were really friendly. The tour itself was self guided, so they set us up in the kayaks and gave us the route and sent us on our way. I was paired up with a girl from Norway, and sat in the back so I was able to steer using pedals for the rudder, which is different than any other kayaks I’ve used before. We started out across a large lake and paddled through some decent winds, but once we entered the enclosed area of the Everglades everything got quiet and slowed down. It was so serene! We bascially paddled through the rainforest, gliding across clear smooth waters tinted brown from the teatree oil. We had a cooler packed with lunch, so we made a quick stop to eat but spent the bulk of the day paddling along. Saw some pelicans which was the biggest wildlife we saw on the water. I also saw some kangaroos in the woods when we got back, the first I’ve seen in the wild! On the back end of the paddle, we were both pretty tired as I think we actually went the furthest out of our whole group. Safe to say I couldn’t feel my arms for a few days after 🙂
I hung around Noosa a bit on Wednesday morning, really thinking I would be back as I packed up and headed out. There is a lot to do on the Sunshine Coast, and I definitely didn’t have time to see everything that I would enjoy in the area. At this point, the Noosa area is at the top of my list of a place to potentially settle down in for a few months after I finish my east coast itinerary in early January. Additional plus- it is only about 30-40 minutes away from Pomona, where the meditiation retreat is held that I am registered for in mid March.
I took the afternoon bus a few hours north to Rainbow Beach, the gateway to Fraser Island! To explain the excursion, I was signed up through a company called Dingo’s for a 3 day 2 night camping trip on Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world. We would be driving 4WD trucks around in 4 groups of 8. Wooow! My bus was unfortunately delayed for a little while, so I missed the 5:00 safety briefing meeting at the hostel that night where I would’ve met everyone else on the same tour. When I checked in, though, there were a few others delayed as well and I ended up meeting 2 English lads, Andy and Cieran, who happened to be assigned to Group 4 with me. We had dinner at the hostel together, and ordered our share of alcohol that we would be able to bring with us on the trip (in total: 30 beers each for them, 10 for me. lol.)
I slept in a normal dorm that night, and packed up my smaller backpack for the 3 days, which was all we could bring with us. Early Thursday morning, we attended a make-up safety briefing and driver safety lesson. I was all excited to drive on the beach until I learned that the cars are manual, which apparently everyone else all around the world knows how to drive except the majoirty of Americans. Nice!
We all filed out to the cars, broke off into our groups to begin packing up our bags, sleeping bags, food and alcohol. At this point I met the other members of my group: Charlton and Gina- an English couple on their honeymoon (and some of the most friendly and welcoming people I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet), Marisa- around my age and also from England, and two younger Swiss girls. Right away, we hit it off and had great energy going from the start. It was so fun to be packed into this 8-seater truck, good music playing, all chatting and getting to know each other! We drove onto the ferry for a 10 minute shuttle over to the island and set out driving on the open beach, 4 cars in a row. Our tourguide, Jonsey, truly made the entire experience. He had a wealth of knowledge as a local who has lived on the island for a few months out of the year his entire life and it was constantly sharing facts and history of the land.
In addition to being the largest sand island (over 120 km, ~75 miles), Fraser is also the only place in the world where a rainforest grows on sand. There are over 100 freshwaer lakes all over the island, and we were unable to swim in the ocean due to dangerous currents, jellyfish and sharks. The island is known as K’Gari to the Aboriginal Butchulla people, which means paradise. It is also most known for the population of pure, wild dingoes (which look like medium sized wild dogs). Sadly, there are only around 200 left on the island, but we were able to see a good few of them!
After driving along the perfectly flat, low tide beach for a while, we stopped for lunch and to regroup for the day. We made veggie wraps out of the back of the truck and spent time chatting and still getting to know each other. We also began to meet people from the other cars as well, putting together the dynamic of our larger group. Jonsey encouraged the cars to switch up drivers throughout the day, so the Brits all took turns at the wheel, which was fun to watch! After lunch, we turned inland on a trail that would take us to Lake McKenzie. This turned out to be the most “off roading” trail of the entire trip, and we could not stop laughing as the bumps and twists had us flying out of our seats. It was truly beautiful to drive through such a pure rainforest as well. Upon first view of Lake McKenzie, I could’ve cried! It was truly the most breathtaking water I’ve ever seen, crystal clear shades of light and dark blue, pure white sand, all surrounded by the green of the land. We spent over an hour basking in the sunshine and I think I smiled for like 2 hours straight.
After leaving the lake, we drove the remainder of the distance to the campsite to get set up for the next 2 nights. We were all happy to freshen up and crack open the cold beers we brought along! Each car had their own crate for dinners, so we broke into our groups to cook and had ourselves a little family dinner- veggie stirfry! Over the rest of the night, we played some card games and drinking games. It’s always fun to learn about the drinking games that people play in other countries, we had several versions of Kings and I laughed about the English game “thank you very much for a lovely game of fives”. I stayed up as late as I could, but was totally beat from the long day in the sun. I know some people woke up feeling a lot worse than me the next morning 🙂
We got up and had some breakfast at camp before getting on the road (beach) around 9:00. Our first stop of the day was Eli Creek, a large flowing freshwater creek that acted as a lazy river for us. Of course it was crystal clear, and at the top of the creek we all bent down to drink the pure, fresh water. Jonsey brought along tubes for us, so we all walked, tubed, floated, down the creek a few times. It winded through a small rainforest area, which was so green and fertile. At the end, cars had accumulated around the water and people played volleyball, sat in groups and enjoyed the sun. It was already crazy hot by 9:00 and we left here around 11:00. Switching directions, we drove past an old shipwrek, the SS Maheno, that is preserved in the sand. Jonsey told us the entire history of the ship, which of course I can’t remember the full details. But basically it was originally used as a vessel between AUS and NZ, then used as a hospital ship during WWI. After the war, she was sold to Japan (1935), and on the way there was wrecked on Fraser Island where it’s been ever since. Jonsey also talked about some of the history of Australia during the world wars, mentioning that they were heavily bombed, something I did not know or remember learning. What stuck out to me the most is that the city of Darwin was bombed more heavily in WWII by the Japanese than Pearl Harbor– who knew?
We had lunch after that stop and then headed further north up the east coast of the island. We stopped at Indian Head and had a ~15 minute hike to the top where we had huge 360 views of the entire land. Apparently from there, you can often spot sharks, turtles, whales (in season), dolphins, etc. I didn’t see anything but spent some time asking Jonesy about his life and some other questions about the island. I usually try to take time to chat with the tour guide outside of the group, because they really have so much information to share. He continued to talk more about his life experiences with the Aboroginal people of Fraser and in the Northern Territory, and I learned a lot more about their culture. Our final stop for the day was just north of Indian Head: the Champagne Pools! I was familiar with this landmark from Instagram (lol) and was excited to get there as the tide was coming in. The pools are natural rock formations along the coast, named for the way the water bubbles down as waves crash into them. It was so beautiful and I enjoyed the switchup of swimming in some salt water. We left just as the sun was beginning to set and went back to camp for the second night.
The carnivores enjoyed steak and the plant eaters had veggie burgers that night, with salad and potatoes. The dinner was really good and we were all impressed with the food overall. The rest of the night was pretty lowkey, we roasted marshmallows around the campfire and continued to all get to know each other. Jonsey even joined us for a few hours and a few beers! Our small group also took a night walk down to the beach, with our dingo sticks in tow and my headlamp guiding the way. The stars were beautiful and it was just about a full moon. We also spotted a dingo literally sprinting straight towards us, and in fear all realized that we were willing to sacrifice each other to get away from it haha. Turns out it was just trotting along the beach, they really are not aggressive animals lol. It was another good night and I fell asleep pretty quickly despite the hard ground and lack of pillow in the tent!
On our last day we were up and ready to go around 8:00. Packed up from camp, we headed out and drove to our major destination for the day, Lake Wabby. It is the lowest spring water lake on the island, tinted bright green and filled with aloe vera, teatree and eucalyptus oils. Jonesey told us that the lake was historically used for healing rituals, and that we all looked like we could use some healing from our sun burns and hangovers haha. It was about a 30 minute hike through the woods to get there, so we definitely earned our time in the water. Coming out of the woods, we saw a massive white sand dune which led straight down into the lake. We all soaked it up, and enjoyed the small guppies that were nipping at our feet. It felt like a real spa experience!
Once we made it back to the cars, we had our final lunch and made the return journey to the ferry. I don’t feel like I can adequately express how amazing the nature on this island is, and it was so awesome being fully off the grid for 3 days. We all spent time talking to each other and soaking up the experiences which was so refreshing. This trip definitely boosted my social confidence and attitute, as it was really the most time I’ve spent with the same people in probably over a month. I made some great friends who are also heading north, though many of us will miss each other at our destinations by a few days. If anything, it is great to have some new pals, you never know who you may run into in the future while traveling.
The majority of us spent Saturday night at the same Dingo’s hostel, so we spent some time at the pool and relaxing since we arrived back around 2:30. A small group went to dinner down the road; Rainbow Beach is a really small town so options were pretty limited! A pretty bad storm actually passed through the area, and we ended up eating at the one place in town that still had power. It was fun chatting with a group about our travel plans and reminiscing about the past 3 days. Since the power was out at the hostel, most of us went to sleep relatively early that night.
On Sunday morning, myself and a few others were all booked on the 12:45 bus out of town, so I had some breakfast, caught up with the family on FaceTime- I’m alive!- and we walked around the area a bit. We had a nice lunch of veggies, hummus and the most fresh and juicy mango I’ve ever had. Yummm. I was sad to say goodbye to Marisa and Astrid, who were heading in a different direction, but really am feeling good about my own plans and am more and more confident that I’ve made some great decisions. My route was about 5 hours north to Agnes Water, where I arrived to my hostel around 7:00 PM. This is another hostel I am really impressed with, once again a YHA. The manager is super friendly and has been calling me by name every time he sees me. It is all decorated for Christmas and the common area is indoor/outdoor built into the palm trees. It feels like I’m sitting in the rainforest!
Last night, I ended up chatting with a number of people in the common area and actually met an Australian guy who had just left the same meditation retreat in Pomona where I am signed up. Crazy! He talked to me about his experience, which helped me build some confidence towards my own. At this point, I’d like to pull it off just to prove it to myself! I also met another gal who has spent a length of time on Magnetic Island, where I will be for New Year’s, so I got some really good recommendations from her. I got a good night sleep and woke up today, Christmas Eve, with a nice and relaxing day ahead of me.
I spent the morning catching up on this post, and chatting with some of my favorites at home. Loved seeing y’all. And then this afternoon I rented a bike from the hostel and took about a 6 mile round trip ride through Agnes Water and the historic town of Seventeen Seventy. I am totally in the middle of nowhere, and it is so nice. There are lots of campsites set up all around and a really happy and festive feel in the air. Seventeen Seventy is hardly touched, and it is just a nice small beach town with about 2 local cafes and plenty of walking/biking paths, campgrounds and beaches. I would definitely love to have a holiday here. I was supposed to do a motor scooter tour this afternoon which unfortunately got cancelled, but I feel like I made up for it! I’ve enjoyed sitting outside and relaxing for most of the day. Tonight I am catching a 9:40 PM overnight bus to Airlie Beach; it is the only overnight trip of my itinerary, so I am not too worried about it! I’ll arrive to Airlie for Chrismas and move on to the next part of this crazy trip.
To those who stuck it out and read this: I hope you’re all having an amazing time at home, celebrating some time off with family, friends and good food! I miss the cookies and big holiday dinners, but I think my 90 degree heat makes up for it. However you spend the holidays, I hope it is refreshing and rejuvinating and that you’re all excited for what 2019 has in store. I’ll be sending my love from 10k miles away this week!