A Travellerspoint blog

Always Read the Fine Print

Hello!

I am home now, and still not adjusted to the appropriate time zone.

So when we left off, Cass and I had gone on an impromptu platypus hunting adventure, and returned to the hostel empty-handed. That was Sunday night. On Monday morning, we had decided to take advantage of the hostel's "Free Shuttle Up Mount Wellington!". It left at 9:30am, so we went downstairs at around 9. Thrillingly, the promised dogs were sitting at the bottom of the stairs! Two giant Alaskan Malamutes, Nala and Baloo. I immediately became best friends with these two delightfully fluffy creatures. Cass and I, along with about six other hostel residents, climbed into the slightly sketchy shuttle bus, and off we went. After about a 20 minute drive, the shuttle stopped at a lookout and we all got out and admired the fog for a moment. The bus took us up for another two minutes or so, and then the driver turned around and said "Okay, so who is hiking?". A couple of people got out immediately, but the rest of us were just a bit confused. We were still basically at the bottom of the mountain. Someone else asked what the other option was, and the response was ".... come back to the hostel with me right now." We decided to hike, since we still hadn't really seen anything. We were given a map and pointed in a general direction, and then the shuttle drove away. We took off up the Pinnacle Trail, and quickly realized our fitness levels were slightly lacking. We hiked up for about an hour and a half, until we discovered snow on the trail. Apparently it had been many years since Cass had seen snow, so she was excited. Now, keep in mind, when we had left the hostel we were anticipating a drive up to the top of the mountain, a wander around the top, and then a drive back down. So we were both just wearing running shoes. The hike continued for another hour in the snow up through the Zig Zag Trail. Climbing along rocky switchbacks that were covered in snow was not quite what we had signed up for, but at this point there was no other option. When we finally reached the top, we were wet, tired, and very cold. I had really hoped there would be a little cafe or something at the top, but sadly there was not. There was an enclosed lookout (not heated) that we took refuge in, as once we reached the top the wind was quite aggressive. We sat in the lookout for about half an hour, where we were joined by Joe, another unprepared hiker from our hostel. Cass and I had at least brought snacks and water, so we shared them and looked out at the glorious view. Now, when I say "glorious view", I am being entirely sarcastic. We could not see a thing. The fog had stuck around despite the wind, so the only things we could see were the rocks immediately below us. After hiking for two and a half hours, this was rather disappointing.

It was at this point when it occurred to the three of us that we had no way of getting back down the mountain. The shuttle that had dropped us off at the bottom had driven away, and none of us were particularly inclined to hike all the way back down, and then have to walk back to the hostel. We were all still very cold. There was a bus waiting in the parking lot, so we knocked on the door and had a chat with the driver. We asked if he potentially had three extra seats and could give us a ride to the bottom of the mountain. We would probably be able to find our way back from there. He said he would like to, but it was probably an insurance issue, so he would have to wait until the group got back and ask the person in charge. Thankfully, we did not have to wait very long for the group to return. It turns out, the group he was transporting was a high school class on a field trip. The two teachers said we could absolutely have a ride, which was amazing. So, we hitchhiked down Mount Wellington on a school bus. How's that for a story? And, of course, the fog started to clear as we drove down the mountain. Pretty soon we got to see the view, which was indeed glorious. I took some pictures through the bus window, which actually didn't turn out too badly. The school bus ended up driving us back into town, and dropping us off around the corner from our hostel! Thank you so much, random Tasmanian school class.

The rest of Monday we spent sitting and reading in the common room of the hostel in front of the fireplace. I had a very hot shower, put on many layers of clothing, and had a coffee in an attempt to warm up. At one point, another person who had taken the shuttle bus arrived back. He had in fact hiked back down the mountain and walked through town to get home. We nicknamed him Tarzan, and he had our utmost respect. Eventually, we walked a couple of blocks to find dinner, and returned back to our comfy chairs by the fire. This hostel was very social, and seemed to have a lot of long-term residents who all knew each other. Someone brought out a set of giant Jenga blocks, so we joined in on a game that quickly became very elaborate and competitive. Blocks were being placed on top at very strange angles, making for a precarious tower that was extremely loud when it inevitably came crashing down. It was quite an amusing evening.

On Tuesday, Cass and I went and had an epic brunch in Salamanca Square. Waffles and ice cream! It was delicious. We had checked out of our hostel that morning, and our bus to Launceston didn't leave until 2:30pm, so we just wandered around Hobart for a couple of hours and bought souvenirs before returning to the hostel to pick up our bags and say an emotional goodbye to Nala and Baloo. The bus ride to Launceston took about 3 hours, and was mostly uneventful. The Tasmanian countryside is actually quite beautiful. It reminded me of that old school screensaver of the rolling hills and blue sky. There were several instances where I would have liked to stop and take pictures, especially when the sun started to go down and everything was golden. The other cool thing about the drive was that along the highway, interspersed between the many sheep and cows, were big metal sculptures of animals and people doing different things. They were set up in such a way that it looked like the silhouettes of actual creatures, especially when the sun was low. It was neat, and made the gazing out of the bus window much more interesting.

When we arrived in Launceston, we were in a bit of a hurry. Cass plays for the footy team that Harry coaches, and the team happened to be playing a friendly game against an American team that was touring Australia. It was going to be televised, so once we dropped our bags off at the hotel we went across the street to a sports bar. We got some food and desperately tried to find the game, but it turns out the channel that was showing it does not exist in Tasmania. Cass facetimed one of the girls on the team at halftime, so we got to watch the halftime chat through an iPhone screen. Since we could not watch the game, and got tired of cooking shows pretty quickly, we decided to call it an early night and head back to our hotel.

Now, when Cass and I were planning Tasmania, I chose the hostel in Hobart. Other than the misleading Mt Wellington shuttle, it was really good. It was clean, everyone was friendly, and of course it had dogs. Cass chose the accommodation for Launceston. She said at one point that if we ever end up travelling together again, she is not allowed to make those types of decisions ever again. It was a shocking place. I think there was only one other person in the entire building. There was no wifi. The window in our room did not close, and the heater that was provided made absolutely no difference. The bathroom connected to our room was dirty and the door didn't close properly. And, to top it off, the blankets provided were approximately 3mm thick. We were absolutely freezing. We both wore layers of clothing to bed. At 1:00am, I whispered "I'm cold", as I wasn't sure if Cass was awake or not. She was, and we spent a while laughing and swearing and cursing Launceston. On our brief tour earlier we had seen a laundry room with a stack of blankets, but we hesitated to go and get some because were skeptical about their cleanliness. Eventually, at 2:30am, I was still too cold to sleep, so I went and got some. Cass was asleep by then, so I put one of the blankets around her, which confused her when she woke up in the morning. I was finally able to sleep, but we both woke up pretty early. We had to leave for the airport at about 9:00am, but we did not want to stay in that hotel for longer than was necessary, so at about 8 we went up the street to a cute cafe and tried to be warm. There was a yellow lab outside the cafe that I made friends with, and took a picture of with the caption "the only good thing about Launceston". We went back to the "hotel" to pick up our bags, and had a brief debate over what to do with the sheets. Generally, at budget accommodation you are supposed to put your linens somewhere when you leave. We had not been shown where to do that, so we decided to leave all of it in the room as a small "F you" to the hotel.

We had a friendly cab driver on the way to the airport, which was very small. My flight to Sydney took off at 10:30, and Cass' flight back to Melbourne left at 12:30, so I was out of there first. I had yet another emotional goodbye. I hate goodbyes. Cass - I am so happy I met you. Thank you so much for hanging out with me and accompanying me on strange adventures in Tasmania. I miss you already! Harry, thanks for the introduction.

I had one more night in Sydney before I headed home, so after dropping off my bags at my not-terrible accommodation, I headed to Bondi Beach. I met up with Keely, one of Brendan's friends whom I have known for years and is currently living in Sydney. We had a lovely afternoon walking along the beach and chatting. For my final night in Australia, I went back to Sydney Harbour. The harbour and the Opera House were the first things I went to see upon my arrival, so I thought it was appropriate. I had a couple more souvenirs to collect before I left, and then I decided to have a farewell drink at the bar underneath the Opera House. I sat outside with my drink, looked out at the harbour, and reminisced about the last two months. Before I got on the train to head back to the hostel, I stood by the railing and said goodbye to the harbour, Sydney, and Australia in general. Yes, I said it out loud. Enough people have thought I was crazy over the course of this trip that I didn't really care if I added a couple more to the list.

When I got back to the hostel, I showered and then tackled the monumental task of packing all my possessions and my recently acquired souvenirs. There is a reason I leave souvenir shopping to the very end of my trips... according to the scale at the airport, my bag was 3.5kg heavier for my Sydney-Vancouver flight than it was for the Launceston-Sydney trip. My flight was very long, and I did not sleep, but I did watch some good movies. I arrived in Vancouver at 7:00am, and was very disoriented, as I had left Sydney at 10:30am that same day. Time zones are weird. Mom picked me up from the airport in Victoria at 9:30, and just like that my adventure was over.

The fine print (or lack thereof) I mentioned in the title of this post refers to three things: the shuttle to Mt Wellington, the quality of the accommodation in Launceston, and the concept of international friends. It is very cool that I have friends in Australia, and that I was able to see them and stay with them. However, no one mentioned how much I would miss them when they are on the other side of the world. I missed them after Contiki, but it is so much more now that I have been to their country, and stayed in their houses. Contiki is a little bit of an artificial environment, so I feel like I know the people I saw this trip far better than I did before. And now I have Australian friends that I did not meet in Europe, like Cass and Bec. Thank you all so much for making time to see me. I had so much fun hanging out and exploring with you guys. Is it too soon to say that I miss you? Well I do, so I will say it anyway. You are all invited and highly encouraged to come visit me in Canada, and I think we should all do Contiki round 2 sometime in the future. I love you guys.

Okay, I have described the final events of my trip, and it didn't take me six months. Good work Jenna. There will be one more post coming in the next few days - a final thoughts and statistics summary - so don't say goodbye quite yet. And if you are in the area, come and say hello in person. Talk to you soon.

Love,

Jenna

Posted by jennamiller 16:10 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Hobart (What even is Tasmania?)

Hello! I can't believe we're almost at the end of this adventure!

Setting the tone for our entire Tasmanian journey, the first things Cass and I saw after deplaning were statues of Tasmanian Devils on a luggage cart, and for some strange reason, a statue of a seal on the baggage claim conveyer belt. That was definitely the most entertaining wait for my bag ever, as we stood and watched a seal rotate around the room, out through the mysterious flap, and then pop back in on the other side with a new load of suitcases. We took a taxi into Hobart from the airport, which for some reason cost $55, and arrived at our superb hostel on Saturday at around 12:30pm. I had chosen this hostel based on the fact that it had two Alaskan Malamutes, and when they were not immediately visible, I asked after their whereabouts. Apparently, they have weekends off, so they wouldn't be there until Monday morning. I was heartbroken, unsurprisingly.

Cass and I spent the afternoon wandering around the Salamanca Market, where I was introduced to the concept of potato sticks. I was handed an entire potato, spiral-cut, skewered, and deep fried. It was an oily, salty, and surprisingly filling snack. I pointedly ignored the food cart that was offering wallaby burritos. That night, we had pizza and cider at a very highly-rated restaurant. It was packed, so we ended up sharing a table with a pair of "tradies" that had been working on the construction site around the corner. We ended up giving them the rest of our pizza, and they gave us some ideas for what to do when we got to Launceston.

On Sunday, we took the ferry across the harbour to MONA - the Museum of Old and New Art. The ferry was painted in grey camouflage, and one of the seating options was a row of plastic sheep. We sat there on the return trip. After disembarking the ferry, we walked up the many stairs and found a giant trampoline outside the museum entrance. It was a sunny morning, so we each took a turn bouncing and taking pictures for Instagram. MONA is set up in an underground cavern, and the tour is designed in such a way that you start at the bottom and spiral upwards as you go along. The very first display is a long pipe, suspended near the ceiling, that releases droplets of water at very precise moments so that as the water falls, it briefly forms a word. It is somehow hooked up to the Internet, and the words that are displayed are taken directly from major news headlines. (It is a hard display to describe... I have a video of it if anyone wants to see that.) It was very cool; we stayed and watched it for several minutes. There is also a museum within the museum (museumception) called the Museum of Everything. I don't even know how to describe that, other than it was 26 rooms, accompanied by audio commentary. Each room had a theme, like "childhood", "damnation", and "inventions", and the art was grouped accordingly. It took about hour and a half to go through. Other notable exhibits included a wall full of vagina sculptures, a dark maze with binary code illuminated along the sides, a giant head full of spinning objects and flashing lights (which is the best visual representation of anxiety I have ever seen), and a room with 30 televisions showing people singing Madonna music. That room had beanbag chairs in it, so we stayed through four or five songs. Cass and I both took videos, and I think Cass has watched them every ten minutes or so for the last two days.

As I mentioned, on the ferry ride back we sat on sheep! When we got back to Hobart we walked around for a bit and then went to see a musical. Cass knows the girl that was playing the lead role in "Thoroughly Modern Millie", a musical about a girl in New York in the 1920s. It was very entertaining, and the whole cast was extremely talented. After spending the morning at an art museum and the afternoon at a musical, we felt very cultured. It was a fairly early night for us, just hanging out at the hostel. Until about 10pm, when one of our roommates sits up and says "I just got a text saying there is a platypus stuck in the storm drain around the corner from the hostel". There was no hesitation from either Cass or I - we both put on pants and joined the run outside with a couple of other people who must have received that same message. We spent about 20 minutes outside hunting for the platypus, but unfortunately all we saw were footprints. The fact that a platypus would just be hanging out in a storm drain in Tasmania was fantastic and ridiculous.

That was the end of Sunday. The events of Monday and Tuesday deserve their own post, so I will get to that later. I am currently sitting in Sydney Airport waiting to board my flight home. I am both sad and excited. I promise I will not wait six months to finish this blog this time, but it will be a couple of days.

See you soon Canadians... Aussies - I will miss you very much.

Love,

Jenna

Posted by jennamiller 16:32 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Highlight Reel

Alright friends, I slept for a long time, got some coffee, and bought people presents. Let's revisit the events of the last week in slightly greater and more cheerful detail.

I think I covered Surfer's Paradise pretty well in the post I wrote before jumping into the ocean. The only notes I would add would be that I had the eight-bed hostel room to myself for both nights, which is a never-before-seen luxury, and that the vibe I got from the area was pleasant and relaxed, although a bit commercial.

Byron Bay is definitely a surfer town. I got there in the afternoon, and after checking into the hostel I went for a walk down to the beach. A section of the parking lot was packed with vans with surfboard-holders on the roof. There was a very talented guy singing and playing guitar in the park just above the beach, so I sat there and listened for a while. The hostel I stayed at does free dinners and activities every night. That night, it was nachos and karaoke. I sat at a table with a guy from Banff and an enthusiastic Frenchman, who both took it as a personal offence that I would not get up and sing. On my full day in Byron, I read a book, and walked all the way down the beach to a point where you could climb up wooden stairs to a platform and look out over the water. I sat there for a while and saw whales! That afternoon, I hiked up to the lighthouse. I was unprepared for the amount of stairs involved, but I made it. I took some sunset pictures, and then scrambled back down before it got completely dark. The free dinner that night was spaghetti.

The next day was pretty much entirely spent on a bus. The trip from Byron to Newcastle took ten hours, and the journey was uneventful. I got into Newcastle at 9:00pm, and went to sleep pretty quickly after finding my hostel. As I mentioned, there is not a lot going on in Newcastle on a Sunday. I went down to the beach, where I found a sign that said there were sharks in the water, which I thought was awesome. I got breakfast, and then decided to go watch Dunkirk. I was one of seven people in the theatre. I watched another movie back at the hostel before attempting to sleep, as my bus from Newcastle to Canberra was scheduled to leave at 4:05am the next day. Unfortunately, I could not sleep at all. I lay there for hours getting very frustrated, before giving up and going to sit in the lobby to get wifi access at 2:00am. I think the hostel night manager was confused by me. I caught my bus, but pretty much immediately got sick. That was a very unpleasant trip. It was scheduled in two segments, so when the bus stopped in Sydney I bailed and took the train to Canberra instead. I got to the hostel at about noon, had a shower, and then took a nap. I woke up at about 4:30pm and was very disoriented. It was raining, so I walked around the corner to the grocery store to get something that could loosely be called dinner before going back to sleep.

At this point, it is Tuesday. I caught my final greyhound bus, this time with no unpleasantness. It was an 8 hour drive from Canberra to Melbourne. I felt very calm when we drove into Melbourne - I think if I were to live anywhere in Australia it would be there. It's probably just because I spent almost two weeks there before, but Melbourne feels safe and familiar. I imagine I will come back one day. I got to my hostel at around 6:30pm, just in time to partake in the free soup that was offered. I was told I had to pay for wifi, but by this point I was so tired I just handed over my card. This hostel was not the best I have stayed at. I was only given one sheet, so I had to choose whether I wanted it beneath or on top of me. Also, the pillowcase was the size of a couch cushion, but the pillow was regular size... Obviously that didn't work. I used a tshirt as a pillowcase instead and just curled up and went to sleep.

I wasn't meeting Harry until nighttime the next day, so I left my bags at the hostel and spent a couple of hours wandering around the Melbourne Museum. It was well worth the time. There was a fascinating exhibit on the brain and how treatment of psychiatric disorders has evolved over time. I spent over an hour in that section alone, and I read every single little sign. It actually made me a little tiny bit excited to go to school.... In the afternoon, I stashed my bags in a locker at Southern Cross Station, and just wandered around the city. Harry and I planned to meet up at the night market we had gone to a couple of weeks before, so I sat in a park with all of my belongings for a while before he arrived and I could put my stuff in his car. The night market was just as delicious as last time, and I got to see Cass again, which was lovely. I stayed at Harry's that night, and we watched the Lion King.

The next day was my last with Harry. We went out for breakfast, and I took advantage of the washing machine that was available before he dropped me off at the Airbnb I had booked in suburban Melbourne. Since I was going to go with Cass to the airport to Tasmania, it was easier to book something close to her house than a hostel in the city. That afternoon was when I wrote my last post - I apologize for the negativity. I was very sad. It is hard having a best friend that lives on the other side of the world, and saying goodbye when you're not sure when you will see each other again. It was a quiet night for me, unsurprisingly.

The following day, Friday, I took the train into the city and had lunch at a very cute cafe. I wandered through another market (I love markets), and bought one or two presents. Can I afford to do that? Probably not. Am I going to buy presents anyway? Obviously.

That is the conclusion of Melbourne. Cass and I went to the airport on Saturday morning and flew to Tasmania, which is my current location. I am going to save describing that for another post.

I am going to keep my previous post up, because it is an honest description of my thoughts at that time. But I knew that if I didn't post a more upbeat, in-depth retelling of that period of time, I would regret it. I read my Europe posts and wished for more detail often enough to know that.

Alright. I'm standing in the kitchen of the hostel in Hobart and Cass is waiting for me to finish this so we can make pasta. I'll talk to you again soon, I promise.

Love,
Jenna

Posted by jennamiller 01:42 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Five W's

Who:

Hi, I'm a perfectionist who doesn't want to post anything that doesn't meet the arbitrary standard I have previously set. I'm also someone who does not enjoy long bus rides, but definitely enjoys the people that are waiting at the end of such journeys.

What:

What have I done lately? I have hiked up to the Byron Bay lighthouse at sunset, and read a highly anticipated book very quickly. I have sat on a Greyhound bus for ten hours in order to get to Newcastle. I have determined that there is not a lot happening in Newcastle on a Sunday, except brunch. I have watched Dunkirk, and been given a St Christopher's prayer card from a lady in a very old church. I have not slept for 37 hours, not on purpose, and been quite sick as a result. I have skipped a subsequent bus trip and taken a train instead. I have discovered that Canberra is a good place to sleep a lot. I have taken yet another long Greyhound journey, and arrived back in Melbourne, which is my current location. I have also probably overdone the concept of parallelism in this paragraph.

Where:

Surfer's Paradise - Byron Bay - Newcastle - Canberra - Melbourne. Just in case I lost you over the course of the previous category.

When:

This brief and mildly disappointing post details the events from July 25- August 3, 2017.

Why:

I have neglected to update this blog because I haven't felt like I have done much that is noteworthy, and I am getting a bit tired of saying "and then I did this, and then I did this, and then I did this". I also have been exhausted and sick, and have spent a lot of time dealing with that. And I have also learned something about myself: when I am ready to come home, I will know.

Coming to Australia was always more about seeing people than visiting places. I am so happy I was able to reconnect with people from my Contiki, and make some new friends as well! And I am looking forward to exploring Tasmania during my last few days in this corner of the world. But now that I have had to say goodbye to a lot of international friends, I am ready to come back.

I'm sorry this post is not very upbeat. I have been dreading the end of this trip because it means it will likely be a very long time before I can once again see people I care about a lot. I think that is why I changed my flights in the first place - I wasn't ready to say goodbye. I made a decent effort to try and outrun the goodbyes, but they are speedy little jerks.

Don't worry, I am going to squeeze every experience I can out of my last week on this continent, and I am sure after a good sleep and a cup of fantastic Melbourne coffee I will be feeling more positive. I hope everyone, regardless of their current time zone, will have a positive day as well. Tell all of your pets I said hello.

Love,

Jenna

Posted by jennamiller 00:57 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Updates, Fun Facts, and Life Lessons

Updates:

I have had a lovely few days. My last days in Brisbane included hanging out with Rob and Bec, cooking, drinking PatrĂ²n, having a picnic on the grass in Southbank, reading, and sleeping in a room that has a door. Rob and his roommates have been amazingly accommodating, which I really appreciate. Thank you all so much for letting me hang out, making me coffee, and teaching me how to cook tofu.
On Sunday, Marina picked me up from Rob's place. I was sad to say goodbye to my Brisbane friends, all of whom are wonderful and highly encouraged to come and visit me in Canada. Marina drove me up to the Sunshine Coast, and we stopped at the Australia Zoo on the way there. Yes, another zoo. This one is the "home of the Crocodile Hunter" aka Steve Irwin. I got some more great photos there. We were able to watch the croc show, where they dangle food from a platform and get the crocodile to jump out of the water. I also touched an echidna, and got licked by another very soft kangaroo. That night, I was taken out for dinner (Thai food) by Marina's family. Thank you guys so much for that, and for letting me stay with you!
On Monday, Morgaine picked us up in the morning and took us on a hike up Mount Coolum. I was a little bit disappointed with my fitness level - but I guess I haven't been doing anything other than walking a lot for the last five weeks. We all made it to the top, and spent a while up there eating snacks, taking selfies, and enjoying the view. You can actually see rip currents, which I did not know. After that, we drove to Noosa, got lunch and some nitrogen ice cream, which is apparently a thing. We ate on the beach and then carried on to Noosa National Park. After about half an hour of walking along a gorgeous coastal path, we made it to the Fairy Pools. These are soccer net-sized rock pools that are filled with very clear water, sand, and tiny striped fish. I did not find them cold, but apparently being Canadian means my temperature gage is totally wrong. I got some very cool pictures here. Also, there was an older couple there whose accents sounded very familiar, so I asked them where they were from. Victoria, BC, of all places. They live in my old neighbourhood, and know my middle school principal. What are the odds?
That night, I said goodbye to Marina, and then Morgaine, Morgaine's mom, their dog Lexi, and I ate salmon and watched the Princess Diaries. The following morning, yesterday, we took Lexi for a walk along the beach, and then they dropped me off at the bus station so I could continue my journey. Another big thank you goes to you lovely people.
I am now in Surfer's Paradise, which is aptly named.
Today, I am sitting on the beach, drinking iced coffee, and writing this blog post. I'll probably go jump in the ocean once I am finished writing - it is quite warm here. There is apparently a very big market here tonight, and I am planning on going to that. I also appear to finally have a slight tan, which is very exciting.
I am leaving Surfer's Paradise tomorrow, and going to Byron Bay.

Fun Facts:

I don't like goodbyes.
In Queensland, shoes are optional.
The highest level on the fire danger scales here literally says "catastrophic".
I met a baby golden retriever yesterday - he was very soft and fluffy and clumsy. His name was Jake.
Small ice cream cones from McDonalds are $0.60!
Last night, I was the only person in my eight-bed hostel dorm.
There are two girls across the street wearing bikinis, cowboy hats, heels, and beauty pageant sashes - I have no idea why.
Writing these posts has become increasingly more difficult.
Today was supposed to be the day I hopped on a plane and came home.

Life Lessons:

Sunscreen. Enough said.

If you think there is even the slightest possibility you might go into the ocean, wear a swimsuit. At the very least, wear shorts that will dry quickly.

Don't feel awkward taking a selfie - no one cares. If you're travelling alone and you don't want to let a stranger handle your precious camera, selfies are the only way you will come home with any photos of yourself. However, strangers are usually willing to take photos for you. If you're worried about it, just ask someone who you could reasonably catch up with if they try to run away with your stuff.

Quality people will make an effort. It has become increasingly obvious to me over the last few weeks that if people want to see you or talk to you, they will. If you send message after message without getting a response, that person probably doesn't want to talk to you. But that's okay, because there are other people that do! There are some people that will travel from a different city just to be somewhere at the same time as you. Some people will send you messages saying that they miss you, they're thinking about you, they hope you're having a good time. I am so happy and honoured that so many people who I haven't seen in a year and a half were willing to spend some time with me, and that people I haven't seen in six weeks haven't forgotten that I exist. Everyone is busy; everyone is going through something you probably don't know about. But quality people will make an effort, and show that they care about you in their own way. I love knowing that.

Alright, that's enough deep musings. I'm going to go jump in the ocean.
Edit: Since I wrote this on the beach but had to wait until I got back to the hostel to post it, I can tell you that I spent over an hour doing what could optimistically be called bodysurfing, but probably more accurately described as "getting absolutely wrecked by very large waves". It was awesome.

Love,
Jenna

Posted by jennamiller 01:08 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Brisbane Part 1: Contiki Reunion

Hello!

I'm sorry there has been such a long gap between posts this time. I will attribute this to a combination of being super excited to see people I haven't seen in a year and a half, and also not really doing much that is blog-worthy. The last few days have basically been just spending time with old friends.

On the day of my last post, Rob and Bec and I went and picked up Harry from the airport, and then stopped at the liquor store on the way home (obviously). We spent a couple of hours drinking and playing trivial pursuit before heading into the city to meet up with some more of the Contiki crew. We went to a bar called Netherworld, which is half an arcade, and half filled with tables for board games. And of course, it serves alcohol. Danny and Rhi met us there, along with Morgaine and Marina! I had spoken to Morgaine the day before, and she had lied and said she wasn't able to come, so this was very exciting. There were many hugs, and then we played a game I have never heard of where you have to name three things that fit into a certain category within five seconds. Then, yet again, we played Trivial Pursuit. This was the "early 2000s" version, so I thought perhaps I would have a better chance this time, except it turned out to be an Australian version. I was a useless partner - sorry Danny. At one point,it was suggested that we return to Rob's house, where there are board games and alcohol that is free. We agreed with this fiscally responsible suggestion, and the whole group went home with us. Rob's roommates joined in, and there were some very entertaining drinking games and shenanigans occurring. As a throwback to the days of Contiki, several people got very very drunk. However, since we had all started drinking at about 2pm, this happened at about 8pm. Eventually some pizza was ordered, and some people passed out, so the night just kind of trickled to a stop at about midnight, which was fine with me. My bed was the couch that everyone was sitting on, so I wouldn't have been able to go to bed until everyone left anyway. It was a very fun afternoon/evening, with a lot of reminiscing, some dancing to our trip theme song, and a toast to one member of our trip who had passed away a few months ago. The next morning was a bit rough for some people!

The next day, which had a bit of a slow start, involved me, Harry, and Rhi takin the bus into the city. We met up with Danny, who was at uni, for lunch, and he gave us a nice walking tour of the Southbank area. Harry, Rhi, and I spent the afternoon wandering around the museum, which had an excellent dinosaur exhibit, and then the Museum of Modern Art. There was a Marvel exhibit on there, which had all of the costumes and props on display, descriptions of the design and filming processes, and behind the scenes clips. It was very interesting, and I was tempted to go home and watch every single Marvel movie in a row. Also - when are they going to make a Black Widow movie?? The three of us took a photo at the end, which was photoshopped into the poster for the first Avengers movie. We had a nice walk back along Southbank, which is beautiful. There are these huge trellises along the path that have flowers wound around them. There are also two little manmade beaches, and a Japanese garden. We stopped and had a drink at a pub with live music, and eventually Danny joined us and we made our way back home.

Tuesday was very quiet. Rob had to go to work, so Bec, Harry and I went out for lunch, got some groceries, and walked 4km back home. The afternoon was spent binge-watching a show called Zoo, where animals become sentient and try to destroy the human race. It was unsettling, but very good. Harry and I made poke bowls for dinner, which are basically bowls of deconstructed sushi. It was delicious - tofu fried in sauce, rice, and a bunch of fresh veggies. After the high amount of carbs I've been eating over the last few days, it felt good to be healthy. When Rob got home, we played Monopoly, which lasted for hours and turned into an epic battle between Rob and Harry. Rob won.

On Wednesday, we went to the botanic gardens, which were beautiful. I was having a great time wandering around and taking pictures, until Rob pointed out the spiders in the trees. From then on I was very conscious of where I was walking, and everyone made fun of me. There is a planetarium at the gardens, so we went to a very cool show called Capturing the Cosmos. It was shown in this cool room with a domed roof, and the seats reclined so you were laying there and watching the movie projected onto the ceiling. It was very interesting. At the end, the night sky that would be visible over Brisbane was projected, and the commentator showed us how to identify the constellations. I successfully identified the Southern Cross last night and I was very proud of myself. That night we went to a great Vietnamese restaurant, where I had shrimp salad rolls and a delicious vermicelli salad. I pretty much only want to eat that meal for the next four years. It was so good, and fairly cheap.

Yesterday, Harry flew back to Melbourne, and Rob was working in the morning, so Bec and I hung out and watched Into the Wild. I didn't really know what it was about, but it was very sad! I just really wanted the main character to go home, but he didn't. When Rob got back, we drove to his parents' house, where I got to meet and cuddle his dog, Milly. She is so sweet and fluffy. We took her for a walk, and then had dinner. Rob's mom made a fantastic lasagna and garlic bread. One of Rob's roommates has gone to a music festival for a couple of days, and he is letting me use his bed while he is gone. So when we got home last night I made a lovely nest, and slept in a room with a door. It was great.

It has been so awesome to see these people again. It feels like it hasn't been very long since our tour, but also so much has changed. I am so happy that even though for the first half of the tour I was really shy and didn't socialize as much as I now wish I had, I made friends and kept in enough contact with them that they are willing to come and see me, and let me sleep on their couches. It makes me wonder how many more friends I would have made if I had been as social and confident (even though compared to other people, I'm still not very social) during that Contiki. I would love to do another one, perhaps a European summer trip, and see what happens. We'll see.

I feel like I've been apologizing a lot on these posts, but I'm sorry it's taken so long to update this. I have a few more days in Brisbane, and then I'm heading to the Sunshine Coast to spend a few days with Morgaine and Marina. I think my plan for my extended trip time will be to town-hop my way down the east coast until I get back to Melbourne, and then Cass and I are going to go to Tasmania for a couple of days! It should be very fun, and I am so happy that I have made friends on this trip that actually want to see me again.

I think today is going to be fairly quiet. Rob is at work and Danny is at uni, so Bec and Rhi and I are going to hang out. They are actually sitting across the table from me right now, waiting for me to finish writing this. Also, as of today, I have been in Australia for a month! I am enjoying this trip immensely.

I hope you are all having a good week.

Love,
Jenna

Posted by jennamiller 15:47 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Kuranda and Towoomba

Hello!

Fun facts: the Cairns airport only gives you 30 minutes of free wifi, and while Towoomba chateaus may be surrounded by wallabies, they don't have Internet. I'm sorry that I did not post when I said I would - please forgive me. And while I'm asking forgiveness, I will let you know that I have rescheduled my flight home. I am now returning on August 10th. I really don't think many people will be surprised to hear this. I love Travel Jenna and she needs to stay here a bit longer. And I'm already all the way over here.....

Anyway. So during my last full day in Cairns I took the Skyrail up to Kuranda. It's basically a gondola split into three segments that ends in an adorable rainforest village. On the second gondola segment, there was only one other person in there with me, so we had a chat. She was from New Zealand. I mentioned that I had been scuba diving the day before and that I had seen a shark, and she responds with "I was attacked by a shark a couple of years ago while sailing in the Whitsundays.... I had to have two blood transfusions and four surgeries." Oh. Well, that didn't happen to me, so all is well. And she seemed in good spirits about it. She said she would definitely still go back to the Whitsundays. When I got to Towoomba, I got a coffee and then wandered around the many little markets that make up the entire main area of the town. The highlight, however, was the Kuranda Koala Gardens. Is anyone surprised? No, me neither. This was the place where I finally got to hold a koala! His name was Charlie, and he was adorable and very fuzzy. I've never been so close to a koala before, obviously, but they don't look real! If it wasn't moving, you could say it was a stuffed animal and I would completely believe you. Their fur is so different than anything I've seen on another animal, and looks identical to what you would see on a well-loved stuffed animal. I've also never seen a koala walk on the ground before! I felt like there should have been more to the back half of their bodies. It was strange. So I held Charlie the koala and got my picture taken, and then walked around the village some more and had lunch. I then took the Kuranda Scenic Railway back to Cairns. It went very slowly, but there were some great views over the valleys. The railway went through 15 tunnels, which were all dug by hand back in the 1800s.

I stopped by the grocery store on my way back to the hostel, and then sat by the pool and read my book. The next morning, I got an email confirming that my several week battle with UVic about which faculty I was allowed to be in was successful! So after I checked out, I sat in the lobby of the hostel and registered for my classes for September. One quick airport shuttle, an hour and a half wait at the airport, and then a two hour flight later, I was in Brisbane!

I was picked up from the airport by Rob, another Contiki friend, and his girlfriend, Bec. We then drove for an hour and a half to Towoomba, which seemed a bit like Parksville, minus the beach. Bec's friend's parents own a place that is literally a chateau. The interior is all beautiful wood and windows that look out over "the bush". Danny and Rhiannon, more Contiki friends, met us there, along with a couple of Bec's friends. It was an excellent reunion, and I was finally able to dispense the rest of the Canadian gifts I brought with me. That evening was spent drinking cider, catching up, and watching Planet Earth. The next morning, we made pancakes (with real Canadian maple syrup, not the sacrilegious "maple flavoured syrup" they have here), and I was introduced to classic Aussie foods like Milo and vegemite. Vegemite is really salty, and I'm not sure I would want to eat it for breakfast, but in general I would eat it again. I also had a lamington, which I was told is also important to try while I'm here.

On our full day in Towoomba, we went into town and wandered in and out of shops. We had a tasty lunch, and then went back to the chateau. The afternoon was spent reading and playing Trivial Pursuit, which I lost. In my defence, it was an Australian-specific version. I also made friends with a possum! It was sitting on the deck railing, and was very curious and cute. Everyone else thought my excitement was very funny. For dinner, Rob cooked up a huge pot of delicious spaghetti and several loaves of garlic bread. I finished yet another book after dinner, had a shower, and then went to bed relatively early.

This morning we departed the chateau at 7:00am, which seemed to be peak wallaby time. We saw at least 20 as we drove down a windy road, which was extremely exciting for me. Most of them were just standing along the road looking regal, and a couple of them stared us down and then decided to cross the road directly in front of our oncoming vehicle. This explained the several roadkill wallabies we saw along the way, which was tragic.

I am now sitting in the lounge at Rob's house, my residence for the next few days. Soon we are going to pick up Harry from the airport, and then this afternoon is the long-awaited Contiki meetup! I am not sure how many people are actually coming, but apparently we are going to a bar that is filled with board games, so it should be a very fun afternoon.

Again, I'm sorry I didn't post when I said I would, and I'm sorry I'm not coming back when I said I was going to. Well, not really that sorry, because I love it here, but sorry that some of you are disappointed in me. I still love you, I promise. I just have a few more favourite things to discover before I come back to the real world.

I hope you're all doing well.

Love,
Jenna

Posted by jennamiller 18:05 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef

Hello!

Has anyone else noticed that Travel Jenna has a lot of "new favourite things"? As a writer, I feel bad about being repetitive, but it is such a simple, accurate, and effective description. I feel like I try a lot more new stuff when I am away than I do at home. And considering how many new favourite things I have, I should probably try more things in real life as well.

I'm getting sidetracked. I am now in Cairns, where it is 28 degrees and yet somehow "winter". I was correct in my last post - my flight didn't land until after 2:00am, and after getting my bag and waiting for a taxi, I didn't end up falling into my hotel room until just before 3:00am. Being out that late when you're dressed up and dancing is one thing, but being awake at 2:30am because your flight was delayed and the high ratio of Asian tourists on your flight can't figure out how a taxi lineup works is entirely different. I was grumpy. But thankfully my hotel room had air conditioning and excellent water pressure, and I got an extended checkout time, so all was well in the morning. I did, however, make the mistake of wearing pants that morning, so by the time I had walked the 3km to my hostel I was a sweaty mess. The rest of the day was spent applying sunscreen, wandering around the Cairns Esplanade, splashing my legs in the lagoon, and reading an entire book. I was asleep by 9:00pm.

Yesterday was a grand adventure! I woke up at 6:30, and was picked up from my hostel at 7:15am by a bus that said "Airport Shuttle", despite the fact it was picking up people for a reef tour. We arrived at the marina at about 8:30am, and boarded the Reef Experience catamaran. One thing that happens a lot as a solo traveller is that whenever a certain amount of people will fit somewhere, you kind of just get thrown in to fill it up. I was placed at a table with three other people, none of whom spoke any English. After the initial safety talks and such, the boat left the marina and I ate a lot of the free watermelon that was available. Since I couldn't talk to anyone at my table, I spent the duration of the 90 minute ride out to the reef standing on the open top deck. Other than the crew, every single other person up there was being sick. It was quite windy, and therefore extremely rocky since we were going fairly quickly. Thankfully, I was not remotely seasick, and so was enjoying it immensely.

Remember when I was talking about walking along Manly Beach and how people probably thought I was nuts? Yeah, I am positive the crew thought that as well. I was standing in such a place where I continually got sprayed, but since it was hot out I didn't mind. I was enjoying going fast and being on the water. Whenever there was a big wave and corresponding splash, the crew and all the seasick people yelled. I mostly just laughed. And then, randomly, it started absolutely pouring. I'm talking sheets of water on par with the water pressure from my earlier hotel. The upper deck had a little bit of covered space, which is where all the crew were hanging out, and now where every single seasick person was trying to squish into. I was already a bit wet from laughing at the waves, so I decided to go big or go home, and I definitely didn't want to go home. I went and stood in the back corner of the deck where I could hold on to two railings, completely uncovered, and just got pummelled by water from all directions.

I'm not entirely sure how to describe that couple of minutes. I'm sure everyone else on board was very confused, but I was in my own little world for a while. Everyone knows I love the ocean, so I was already super happy just being on a boat. And this might sound kind of ridiculous, but going and standing out in the open, on a fast, very rocky boat, in the middle of a monsoon was extremely freeing. I was holding onto the railings and was going with the motion of the boat quite easily, so I felt completely in control, despite being drowned from multiple directions. My clothes were already wet, and I was wearing a bathing suit underneath anyway, so I really didn't care. It wasn't cold at all. So I just stood there, laughing. The rain stopped as suddenly as it began, and when I turned around everyone was staring at me. Yes, hello, I'm the crazy girl that loves the ocean, nice to meet you. One of the crew members came up to me afterwards, asked if I was okay, and then said "I've never seen that before". It was quite amusing.

Anyway, that was just the ride out there. Then we were at the Great Barrier Reef! We went to two locations, one before lunch, and one after. I snorkelled for half an hour or so at the first stop, and then did my first scuba dive! It was so cool. It was a little bit sad - the reef did seem like a fair amount of colour had been washed out of it. But there were little bits of coral in each formation that were so beautifully vibrant, that they basically glowed in comparison. Seeing the reef when the whole thing was that colourful would have been spectacular. I have been thinking for a while that I want a GoPro, and this first dive absolutely confirmed that. The emotional photographer in me was devastated that I couldn't document it. So if four or twelve of you want to team up and get me a GoPro for Christmas..... I'd be thrilled. Food was included in this tour, so we had steak sandwiches and multiple types of salad for lunch. It was delicious, and I probably could have had a nap afterwards.

Despite having chosen a slightly more expensive reef tour to being with, I loved my introductory dive so much that I signed up for a full-length dive at the second location. It was so worth it. At the beginning of the intro dive, we had to demonstrate that we could breathe and clear our masks etc, which took a really long time. One guy in my group just could not grasp the fact that you can't breathe through your nose while scuba diving. We did not have to go through that again for the second dive, thankfully, so we spent the full 45 minutes mermaid-ing around. (This is what I was referring to at the beginning with the "new favourite thing" comment.) I love scuba diving. So if anyone is keeping track, I am now going to move to Brighton, Australia, join an AFL team, and go scuba diving every weekend. And get a pet kangaroo.

I've started just writing these posts in a stream-of-consciousness style, so they are getting a bit all over the place. Hope you don't mind.

During the second dive, I SAW A SHARK. It was a little reef shark, relax Mom. But still, it was very exciting, and I utilized my new scuba skills and followed it for a while. I also saw a turtle (one of my many other favourite things), and many cool and colourful fish. It was so much more interesting than snorkelling, as I could actually go down and look closely. I even saw two clownfish going in and out of an anemone, which is when I really really wanted to be able to take pictures. The colours and the clarity of the water were fantastic.

The boat ride back to Cairns did not involve any soul-energizing monsoon moments, and I was very tired, so I just sat on the top deck and watched the waves. Despite the fact that the tour bus took 40 minutes to get from my hostel to the marina, since it stopped at every other accommodation in town as well, it was actually only a ten minute walk back. When I got back to the hostel, I was sitting on my bed checking my phone when I realized I had a literal layer of salt all over me. It felt like I was covered in sand, but I couldn't see any of it. I had a shower, and washed my hair twice, but when I woke up this morning it still felt like my hair was crunchy.

I was going to talk about today in this post as well, but so far I have been writing this for an hour, and I'm tired. I will do another post while I'm at the airport tomorrow, waiting to go to Brisbane.

Ponder this - when was the last time you had a rocky-boat-ocean-monsoon moment (or whatever your version might be, if my description of it made any sense)? I would highly recommend going and finding one. It feels really good.

Talk to you tomorrow.

Love,
Jenna

Posted by jennamiller 03:47 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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