“Take me down to the paradise city, where the grass is green and the girls are pretty…”
Sorry for the delay folks, life Down Unda has been a bit interesting as of late. I last wrote you about my trip to Cairns where I got my scuba certification. But that was only half the trip…
Before I began my travel from Cairns I tried to contact an old friend from high school Adrienne who was studying at Bond University in the Gold Coast. I didn’t hear back from her before my flight to Brisbane left and still didn’t hear anything before my flight to the Gold Coast left so I was a bit worried I would end up needing to get a hostel. Thankfully though when I got off my plane in the Gold Coast my phone turned into a complete and total spaz as all the messages she had sent me while I was enroute arrived. That was a weight off the shoulders. But I still had to find my way there. The Gold Coast is a very spread out area so its main public transit is the bus system, which I never quite got ahold of while I was there. In fact it confused me to no end. I bounced around the airport from desk to desk for a few minutes before coming across someone who could tell me what buses I needed to take to get to Bond University. The buses came relatively quickly and pretty soon I was on my way. There was a bit of a mixup after my first bus dropped me off because I actually had to change busstops but that would turn out to be nothing compared to my experience going back to Melbourne. Before I knew it I was walking up to the Varsity Shores gate and giving Adrienne a hug after almost 4 years of not seeing her. She took me to her house where I met her roommates, Cara and Avery, and some of her friends, Jessica and Nick. The place was incredible, especially compared to UniLodge. It was basically a town house complete with garage and back patio. Even had air conditioning, too! It was like living in the lap of luxury. I took the upstairs hallway (sketchy I know) since no one lived up there and just kinda turned it into my bedroom. It was really great to catch up with Adrienne. We never really got a lot of time to talk but what when we did it was exciting to hear about everything she had been doing. For both of us to end up in Australia at the same time without any coordination was a pretty huge coincidence. That night was pretty relaxing and we all had a few drinks while we sat and talked.
The combination of Cairns nightlife, three days of scuba diving, and incredibly early mornings finally caught up to me on Thursday morning. Actually just make that Thursday as a whole. I had purposefully not planned anything for my time in Surfer’s Paradise and took full advantage of my schedule or lack thereof on this day. I joined the girls on a walk in the morning (big pimpin’) through Bond’s campus and the lake and small shopping center that are right past campus. The campus itself was gorgeous. Large, open walkways and lots of space in between buildings. Complete opposite of the Swinburne campus stuck into as small a space as possible. We returned to the house where we lazied about, the girls ‘studying’ for exams and myself being completely lost in The Lacuna. I walked back to the shopping center in the afternoon to get out and pick up a box of goon from the liquor store. Ballin’ on a budget at its finest. Thursday night was a huge night to go out (one of the few things that was consistent with the Gold Coast and Melbourne) so we got ready and did a bit of predrinking before catching a bus to East. Now, I knew full well before I arrived that I was going to be visiting during Bond’s study week before finals but this was the first time that it was obvious. Not to say that the place was dead, but just not what I had expected. Adrienne and her friends kept telling me that East was usually completely packed (free champagne for girls will usually get people in the door) and that most people were either traveling or being nerds and not going out so they could study. Psh, you’re in Australia. Go have a drink and get your groove on. It was still a lot of fun though and a lot different from the night scene in Melbourne.
Friday morning I was determined to not spend ALL day being lazy. The morning run/swim fell through though so I asked Adrienne how to get to Surfer’s Paradise, made myself some sandwiches, and headed out for adventure! The day started off really nicely and the trip to the beach was interesting. I took the same bus we had taken last night but walked through a large outdoor shopping centre that led all the way to the beachside park. The beach was really nice but incredibly windy. The wind made for some great surfing conditions but wasn’t so amicable for book reading or even just sitting down. I actually wasn’t on Surfer’s yet so I followed Adrienne’s instructions to “walk towards the tall building” along the beach. However simple the instructions may have been, they worked perfectly and after about an hour walk I arrived in Paradise. The walk itself was one of the best parts of the day. In addition to the surfers of varying talent perpetually bobbing up and down to my right, I passed a few businessmen, pleated pants rolled up to their knees, carrying their socks and shoes in a plastic bag they had obviously just ate lunch out of. Not a bad lunch-time cafeteria if I do say so myself. Tourists and their spawn littered the beach in the swim zones, of which there were about 6 during my walk. The most curious thing I came across though was a wedding gown photo shoot. Not only was there no groom in sight but what would possibly make a person think an overcast day on an incredibly windy beach is a sufficient setting for a photo shoot. Maybe the groom felt the same way I did and was still asleep in the hotel room. Yeah, lets go with that. Too depressing to think about a woman putting a wedding gown on and only saying ‘I do’ when the photographer asks her if she has sand in her mouth. When I got to Surfer’s, the weather was beginning to take a turn for the worse so I took shelter along the esplanade and ate lunch. Peanut butter and nutella sandwiches are not only delicious but are also the perfect seagull bait. I had one particularly determined little shit who never let me or my food out of his sight. Then a crazy woman playing the accordion racked up and started dancing to whatever voices she was hearing in her head. But not even a seagull companion and being serenaded by a bat-shit crazy woman could keep me once the rain subsided and my sandwiches were gone. I took a few cliche tourist photos before venturing away from the beach into the stores and restaurants. It reminded me of a cross between Virginia Beach and Niagra Falls. The souvenir and clothing shops and seafood restaurants reminded me of Virginia Beach but the Ripley’s Believe It or Not and Hard Rock were totally Niagra. As is tradition in the Rubenstein clan, whenever there is a Hard Rock within reasonable distance we must go and visit. The weather was once again sunny so I grabbed a pint of Fat Yak and sat outside on the patio people watching and jamming to the tunes. For those who are dedicated readers of this blog, do you remember the girl from the Metro with her chips? This Hard Rock patio was my Metro train and Fat Yak was my Smith’s Original chops. It was magnificent. I explored the area for a little while longer but soon found myself walking away from the really tall building and back to my bus stop. The walk back was much less enjoyable. Halfway through it started to rain and I was in no way prepared. I left the beach in hopes of finding a covered pathway of some sort but soon after I did this the rain ceased. Too lazy to move back onto the beach and actually quite grateful to not be facing that brutal wind any longer, I continued my walk home through the parks that ran parallel to the beach. When I got back to Adrienne’s, I had dinner and got ready to go out to experience the Surfer’s nightlife. During all of that I planned a trip to Byron Bay for the next day just so that I could see more of the area while I was here. The process to get ready was a lengthy one but once everyone was ready we grabbed a maxi (big ass cab) that took us WAYYY out of the way to a club called Melbas. This place was much more like the night scene in Melbourne. The place wasn’t packed by any means and the fog machine sounded more like a fog horn when it went off, but it was a really good night. I was more comfortable with Adrienne and her group of friends so I was a lot more loose and relaxed. But every club must close. It was raining when we walked out of the club and since there was another hour or so before the late bus started running we just hailed a cab that took us back to Adrienne’s.
Saturday morning was hurried. I overslept my alarm so rushed to get dressed and packed in time to catch the bus that would take me to Surfer’s Paradise so I could catch the shuttle to Byron Bay. I made the bus no worries and only had a few minutes wait before the Byron Bay Express came through the bus terminal and picked me up. When I got off the shuttle in Byron, I was completely and totally lost. The information centre was completely useless and I ended up wandering around aimlessly until I found someone who knew the basic layout of the town and was also willing to give me a few directions. They pointed me towards the beach and I set off. This was by far the nicest beach I had been on in my time in Australia. The sand was bleach white and free of almost all seeds and shell fragments. Just pure, white sand that went on forever. The shore was fairly steep as it is at most surf beaches and the part where I had walked out was almost deserted despite it being a glorious day. I took a little nap in the sun for about three hours before continuing on towards the lighthouse that overlooked the beach. The walk was fantastic. I couldn’t have asked for a better day and the beach curved out to a peninsula where you could climb up and look out down either coast or down to where the surfers were trying to catch the big waves. On my way I decided that the sandwich supplies in my backpack didn’t quite sound appetizing so I grabbed some fish and chips and a milkshake from a oceanfront restaurant. Since the little devil spawns who had ordered before me refused to leave the takeaway tables in peace, I continued on with my walk until I got to the top of a hill overlooking the other side of the bay. When I got there I realized that once again I had a hot lunch date, this time in the form of a rather large lizard who was extremely interested in my fries. I named him Spike and kept him occupied with many a fried potato during our date. Spike and I were rudely interrupted when a couple came by and, seeing a french fry eating lizard as an invitation for social interaction, proceeded to tell me that they had been walking for five hours and had only just now gotten to their current location. This made me jump a little as I was planning on having a leisurely stroll to the lighthouse and back with more than enough time to catch my shuttle back to the Gold Coast. I hastily finished my lunch, said my farewell to Spike, and set off on a desperate mission to the light house. Up until this moment I had been walking around barefoot but my newly discovered time limit forced me to put my shoes on. I was making good time until I hit the nude part of the beach. For reasons beyond my understanding, the ground suddenly got really sticky and I wasn’t able to walk as fast. Weird, huh? Not to be tempted from achieving my goal, I trudged onwards up the hill that the lighthouse stood on. All the side paths be damned, I was determined to see this lighthouse. When I got to the top, it proved to be worth it. Not only was the lighthouse itself really cool but the viewpoint that it had from the top of the hill was astounding. I could see the entire coastline that I had just walked up, the town of Byron, and way off in the distance the skyscrapers of the Gold Coast. The couple who had shook me into such a scare about the time must have been moving at a snail’s pace because I had made the trip that took them two hours in under 30 minutes. Slightly bitter about rushing through the walk, I set back down the hill from where I came determined that if I saw the couple again I would inform them to not assume everyone is as lethargic and dilatory as they are. The walk back was much more enjoyable. I explored some of the side paths that offered some great views of the cliffs and coastline. The most Eastern point of the Australian continent was also right along the path as well. When I passed it I couldn’t help but think about how this was the closest I was going to be to the States for another two months. It was a weird feeling. Spike was still where I had prematurely ended out lunch date but was not nearly as friendly now that I didn’t have french fries. The sun was beginning to set as I finished my walk up the beach. I went a bit further past where I originally walked onto the beach and went through the small park that comes up the edge of the beach at the main swim area. With an hour or so to burn but no sun to keep me on the beach I wandered into town where I bought my usual shot glass and explored the shops. It was a weird mix of surf/hippie culture and had everything from gems worth thousands of dollars to the tackiest Australian souvenirs you can imagine. I made a sandwich while I waited at the bus stop and once the Greyhound pulled up I got in the queu, gave the driver my name, and took my seat. It was 7:00pm when I got on the bus and it was a good three hour drive so I turned the iPod on and dozed off. The ride went quickly (a three hour bus ride is nothing compared to what I did in New Zealand) and I walked around Surfer’s Paradise for a few minutes before catching the bus that would take me back to Adrienne’s. When I walked in, I immediately heard the celebration going on upstairs. They were all celebrating Jessica’s birthday combined with a final big weekend out. I had picked up a bottle of vodka in Byron to give them as a thank you present for letting me stay in their house that I was going to leave on the table when I left in the morning but thought they might find it more useful on their big night out. I had a drink or two with them before they left for the club but wasn’t going to be joining them that night. The long day in Byron and the early morning bus to the airport were enough to keep me in that night. Besides I had felt a bit self conscious about the past few nights because I felt that Adrienne was more worried about whether I was having fun than she was about herself. Thats no way to spend your last weekend anywhere so I just let her and her friends go out and do their thing without having to worry about me. It turned out to be a good decision, too. It took me awhile longer than I thought it would to pack and it was nice to get to bed relatively early. I got a few laughs when the group returned from the club though as I could hear perfectly the discussions about what to eat, what to drink, and whether or not they had woken me up.
Sunday morning was depressing. The weather was terrible and it marked the end of my vacation. I grabbed a quick breakfast and talked to Adrienne for a few minutes before slinging my backpack over my shoulder, saying goodbye, and setting off to the busstop. This would prove to be the beginning of the most stressful day of travel of my life. I left Adrienne’s house in plenty of time to catch the 7:36am bus but it never came. I was there at 7:30am and not a single bus came by until the 7:55am rolled up. I bought my ticket and took the 10 minute ride to Pacific Fair where I disembarked and walked a block to the stop that the airport bus would be arriving at shortly. My flight was scheduled to leave at 10:00am for Sydney but I got to the airport around 9:15am. In the States that would be cutting it way to close but for a domestic flight in Australia I still had plenty of time. I was sitting behind security by 9:25am and cracked open a magazine while waiting to board the plane. About halfway through the magazine I thought to myself, “Hmm, the plane should be boarding by now.” Well no, Ben, your plane shouldn’t be boarding because it has been delayed by twenty minutes. Twenty minute delays happen. No big deal. I went back to my magazine and before I knew it I was staring at the back cover and STILL not on the plane. Another twenty minute delay? Ugh, alright. I never got on the plane. After five twenty minute delays the flight was cancelled entirely and I was sent back through security to pick up my bags. The bags didn’t come for 45 minutes and after that it was a stampede to the service desk to find the next flight. I got to cut in line because I was going to Melbourne so this brightened my day a little bit until I was told that I would be put on a 5:00am flight leaving out of… wait for it… Brisbane. Bitch I’m not in Brisbane how am I supposed to fly out of there. The answer to that question would be a 3 hour bus ride. I said before that a 3 hour bus ride isn’t that bad but that was in a circumstance where I was not only expecting to be on the bus but I was also supposed to be on the bus. When I go to fly, don’t put me on a bus. The bus didn’t get to the airport for another hour so by the time I actually boarded it was almost 1pm. The bus ride was uneventful but when we arrived at the airport, got dropped off at the wrong terminal, and still had to stand in line for an hour I was anything but pleased.The polite demeanor I had when all of this started was barely holding on and all I wanted to do was get back home. I checked my bag, got my boarding pass, and went to the gate where I took the closest possible seat so I could just get on my fucking plane. The entire plane could probably hear me sigh in relief as we took off. My relief didn’t last long though as I soon discovered that the high school swim team members sitting behind had never been told that if you put your headphones in and turn music on even if you think you are speaking normally you SOUND LIKE THIS TO EVERYONE ELSE ON THE PLANE. No, I didn’t murder or inflict emotional damage on any teenagers but it was very tempting. The final bag pickup and shuttle/train to Hawthorn was quick and painless. By the time I got back to the apartment I was exhausted and wanted nothing more than to have a shower and go to bed. Goodnight, world.
All in all, my vacation to Cairns and the Gold Coast was absolutely fantastic. It was some of the greatest days I have spent here in Australia and I met so many amazing people. I made new friends from all over the world, from Melbourne to Israel and Sweden to Germany, who I am so incredibly excited to see and travel with once again. Being reunited with Adrienne made me realize the importance of maintaing communication with people who are important in your life. My vacation was simultaneously one of the biggest adrenaline rushes I have ever had yet relaxing. I was surrounded by the most gorgeous nature anyone could imagine, too. In short, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Sure as hell beats out the yearly migration to Panama City in the States. A final thank you to Adrienne for your hospitality and I look forward to catching up with you again soon. To all my ProDive buddies, when are we going to Julian Rocks?!
Till next time readers 🙂