Byron Bay, Surfers Paradise, and Brisbane: Jump in the Pool

My holidays are already over, and I only have 9 weeks left in Australia until my next big trip!! 😦 After I got back from

Tasmania, I only had the evening to unpack everything (all of my winter clothes) and repack for Byron Bay (all of my summer clothes). I have now realized that trying to fit 7kg of stuff for ten days is pretty much impossible, so I might have to rethink my options when I do my 4-month Asia trip… On Tuesday morning, I had to walk to St. Kilda so that I could take the bus to the airport. I arrived in Brisbane at about 12:30pm and then I was planning to take a bus straight to Byron Bay. However, when I went to all of the service desks, they had either said that their last bus had already left at noon, or the next bus wouldn’t be until 5pm. One of the ladies told me that if I went to the main station in Brisbane, I might be able to get a bus from there. Therefore, I bought a ticket to central Brisbane. I was to arrive at the Brisbane station just after 2pm and I saw that the last Greyhound bus would be leaving at 2:30pm. Luckily, I ended up making it on time, and the bus ended up even being about a half hour late. I then had a 4-hour bus journey ahead of me, which actually went by quite quickly. Since the bus was late, I got into Byron Bay at about 7pm. Byron Bay has a completely different vibe, where everyone just has a carefree attitude. There’s no style in Byron – everyone wears whatever they want and you’ll often see people just wandering the sidewalks or shops in bare feet. I ended up being put in an all-girls’ dorm, but for some reason I was put with all of the girls who worked there so most of them had been there for 1-3 months. They were all getting ready to go out that night and since I had been travelling for basically the last 12 hours, I decided to have a quieter night in. The hostel was awesome in that it gave free dinners, so I met some British guys and hung out with them for the evening. That night though, one of the girls ended up bringing a guy back, so I had to listen to them for about two hours. I wasn’t too impressed and was thinking I should ask to change rooms, but I decided to give it one more night to see how things went. The next day was supposed to have on and off rain, so I decided to walk along the beaches and check out the lighthouse. I was taking a walk along the trail and I saw a path leading down to the beach. For some reason, I decided to take this path, even though there had been numerous other paths along my walk. When I got to the beach, I realized that there was a wedding going on, with tons of people watching. I didn’t think much of it and went to go sit down but then when I looked over, I noticed that there were quite a few cameras and

videos there just for an average wedding. I then looked over and saw two normal-looking guys standing to the side with cameras, trying to get some shots of the wedding and then saw two security guards run over and try to jump in front of their pictures. I wondered, “What if this is a wedding for Married at First Sight (which is a HUGE deal in Australia – everyone gets into it)…” I decided to get closer to watch, and casually snap a photo while the securities guards were distracted by the paparazzi. I noticed that when they said you may now kiss the bride, the bride went in for a hug first. I couldn’t contain my excitement and messaged my friends who kept up with the show. I’ll definitely be ready to watch next season! Anyway, I continued my walk towards the lighthouse and spent a couple of hours sitting next to the beach. Once I saw the rainclouds start heading over, I decided to walk to the lighthouse, look at the most eastern point of Australia (the lighthouse in Tasmania was the most southern point of Australia, so now I only need to do north and west!), and head back to the hostel. It started to rain just as I headed back to the hostel and I made it back just in time, before it started pouring. That evening, I took advantage of the free dinner at the hostel and then watched the ping pong tournament with the British guys that I had met the evening before.

On Thursday, it rained pretty much the entire day so I decided to check out all of the shops. Everything was so expensive there! I definitely wouldn’t be able to afford any clothes, which was probably a good thing since my bag was already overweight. The rain stopped in the evening, so I walked to the beach and listened to one of the buskers for a couple of hours while the sun was setting. It was so relaxing! I went back to the hostel because I wanted to sign up for kayaking with dolphins on Friday, but I found out that it was completely booked up. I was seriously contemplating leaving Byron early because I had felt like I had seen everything I needed to see and I didn’t know what else I could do the next day. Lucky for me (and as I had mentioned in my previous post), two American girls showed up that night after dinner. We instantly clicked, and they asked if I’d like to join them on a hiking trip the next day. 

On Friday, I got up and met with Amelia and Meghan for breakfast at the cafe next-door. We then got everything ready for our hike to Minyon Falls, and started the drive over. It’s great hiking in Australia because you have to totally be one with nature, as there’s rarely any phone service anywhere. Which can also be a bad thing if anything happens and you have no way to contact anyone. We were told that it would be an easy 2-hour roundtrip walk, so we had the rest of the day planned with other activities. However, we just kept walking and walking, wondering why it had been well over an hour and we still hadn’t reached the falls. We then reached a fork in the road with a really crappy map that didn’t tell us anything, so we struggled figuring out where to go next. We could either go up some stairs which seemed to lead away from the falls, or climb over a bunch of huge, dangerous rocks, which seemed to lead towards the sound of water. None of us were wearing proper hiking shoes since I didn’t really expect to be doing any hiking on this trip (unlike in Tasmania), so I was sliding around on slippery rocks in my Converse sneakers. I was legitimately concerned that someone would take a wrong step, fall off the rocks and break a leg, and then we’d be trapped at the bottom of the falls with no way to call for help. Luckily, that didn’t end up happening. We finally made it to the falls, which actually only ended up being somewhat of a trickle. We decided to stay and sit for about 45 minutes to an hour and while we were sitting there, we finally heard (and saw) other humans!! It was a family of six with three kids for sure under the age of 12. When we asked how long it took them to do the hike, the dad responded, “Oh about an hour” as non-chalantly as possible, while we decided not to share that it took us over two hours. The dad was even wearing flip flops! Like they were just a superfamily. Anyway, we decided to make our way back but we weren’t too keen on going back the way we came, since it had taken too long. The only other way seemed to lead in a completely different direction from where we started but luckily, we saw a couple more humans who knew the trail and they said that if we took the other path, it would just lead us to another parking lot and then we could walk back to our car from there. The path that we left on was supposed to take half the time of the path that we came on, so we definitely were ready to take the short way! We got to the top much quicker than expected and saw that there was a full map there, where we realized that we took the longest route possible to get to the falls (a 5-hour circuit, which we did in 4 hours – 1 of those hours was us just sitting by the waterfall so we did quite well). The path that we had just finished was the only path we SHOULD have taken to get to the falls and back, which would have taken us a total of 2 hours. We walked back to the car and by the time we got there, the superfamily had also made it back at the same time, even though they had taken the path that should have taken double the time! The girls had wanted to go to the Crystal Castle so we drove there but when we arrived, we’d only have about 45 minutes until it closed. The lady suggested that we go to this small, nearby town called Mullumbimby, which seemed to be quite hippie-like and had a neat feel to it. Unfortunately with small towns, most restaurants were closed during the afternoon but we were able to find one cafe, where we fuelled up on coffee and had a few snacks. We headed back to Byron once it got dark, had dinner, chatted for awhile, and then I went to bed. 

On Saturday, I was planning to leave for the Gold Coast that morning but Meghan and Amelia were planning to drive to Brisbane later that day, so they suggested that we all hang out again and then they could drive me to the Gold Coast. We packed up all of our stuff and then found out that there was a market in Byron that only comes four times a year! We spent the morning and a good part of the afternoon looking at the hundreds of stalls, and eating tons of food. We then went to the cafe next to the hostel so that I could have a much-needed poutine before we went to the Crystal Castle. Literally as soon as we got to the parking lot, it started to rain. The park supplied umbrellas so we started walking around all of the different areas. The park was big into zen and energy, and all that jazz, so it was interesting to see. We saw that there was a rainforest walk so we started our walk through it, which is when we got caught in the middle of a huge thunderstorm! The rain started going sideways and we got absolutely soaked, plus the pathways got so wet that there was mud everywhere. When we finally got out, we noticed that they had actually closed the gate to the rainforest walk due to bad weather, so we shouldn’t have even been down there! We ran to the cafe, as it was the only shelter, and then it started to hail – I couldn’t believe it! We spent about the next hour to hour and a half waiting for the rain to stop so once it finally did, we were able to explore the last of the park before starting our drive towards Brisbane. We got to Surfers Paradise later that evening and I instantly knew it was going to be a dangerous place. Why?? Cause every store had huge SALE signs in the windows! Never would I ever see sales in Melbourne unless it was on winter clothes that no one wanted. The feel of Surfers Paradise reminded me of any other American coastal city, where there was a beach all the way along the city but it was surrounded by tall skyscrapers, shops and restaurants everywhere. I had heard bad things about Surfers Paradise before I arrived so my expectations were low (whereas with Byron, they were high), but I actually think that Surfers Paradise ended up being my favourite part. 

On Sunday morning, I met one of the girls in my dorm room (Lena) from Germany and she was meeting up with another German girl (Alex) to explore the city. I decided to join them, so we walked around and explored the shops, went out for lunch, and then Alex left that day. Lena was in Surfers Paradise for an internship so she was looking at different apartments throughout the day. Therefore, that gave me the chance to check out some of the shops on my own. I decided to just treat it as a shopping trip, since I don’t really have many summer clothes (because I’ve always been going from winter to winter to winter) and this would be the cheapest place that I could find new clothes. I ended up having to pay the airline for a checked bag, and I also had to BUY a bag to take on the plane (don’t worry, it was only a $10 backpack), but it was totally worth it! Lena and I went out for dinner that evening, where I was able to get a steak and salad for 10 bucks! They had the rugby final on that night, so we stayed and watched along with everyone else in the pub, and tried to figure out the rules. 

On Monday, I had my mind made that I wanted to do a whale-watching tour. Since whale-watching season was only from May-October, I figured that I probably wouldn’t get the chance to see them again since when I finally DO tour Australia, it’ll likely be from January to April. I did some more shopping in the morning, and then my tour started at 2pm. At the beginning of the tour, they tried selling motion-sickness tablets for $3 and they strongly recommended them since we’d be going into really rough waters that day. I didn’t really think anything of it since I’ve never been sick-sick on a boat, and I had only gotten that sick feeling twice in my life. Therefore, I didn’t bother buying any of the pills. We started the tour by going on a nice, smooth cruise down the river, where we got to see Jackie Chan’s summer house. Then we hit the ocean and boy, they definitely weren’t lying when they said the waters would be rough. I got bruises on my arm from getting thrown back and forth on the boat! Finally, we got through the worst of it but it was still a bumpy ride. They had a rule that if you were standing, you HAD to have one hand holding onto something at all times. Eventually, they spotted a mother whale and her calf, so we followed them for the rest of our trip. They’d come in and out, making sure they kept their distance and at the end of the tour, the calf started doing all types of jumps as the sun was setting – it was so majestic! I definitely started feeling sick towards the end of the tour though and there was a moment when I just wanted to get off of the boat and get back to land. It was a good three and a half hours though! Lena and I met up for dinner at the same place that night and then walked around Surfers Paradise. 

On Tuesday, I spent the morning sitting by the beach and enjoying the sunshine before catching my 1:30pm Greyhound to Brisbane. I think I arrived in Brisbane right before 3pm and then I had to get to my hostel. For some reason, I chose a hostel way outside of the city centre, so I actually had to take a boat down the river to get to it. That was one of the coolest things about Brisbane is they offer a free ferry transport service which stops at about ten different places along the river. I think I finally arrived at my hostel at about 4:30, so I unpacked everything and then decided to go and explore. I was staying in an area called Kangaroo Cliffs, which were cliffs beside the river, where people can rock-climb whenever they choose. I walked along the river to Southbank, which is where there’s a man-made pool beside the river, and is basically Brisbane’s only “beach.” I then walked downtown, checked out the shops, and had dinner before doing the 55-minute walk back to the hostel. The next day, I did a lot of the same thing – just walked around the botanical gardens, checked out Southbank, did some shopping, and just sat in the park and people-watched. It was such a nice day, so it was good to just relax! I went to bed super-early that night since I’d have to get up at 5 the next morning to get to the airport. However, the girls in my dorm had different plans for me, as they continuously kept making noise. One girl decided to shower and blow-dry her hair at 11:30! So I didn’t end up actually falling asleep until after midnight and was exhausted the next day. 

On Thursday, I got up and caught an uber to the airport. I arrived in Melbourne at 10am and then had to take the Skybus to the city in order to get back home. I got back home at about 12:30pm. Then, I just spent most of the day trying to

catch up on the past two weeks of laundry. This past week has actually been pretty productive and busy, even though I didn’t work the entire week. But I’ll save that for the next post! Hope everyone is well. Love always

Jump in the Pool – Friendly Fires

Tasmania: Take a Walk

I’m already finished my trip to Tasmania, and it was so awesome! So how did it all come about? Well, my flatmate (Beena) had to go to Hobart for work on Monday and she wanted to make a long weekend out of it. A couple of weeks ago, she messaged me onSunday afternoon and asked if I’d be interested in joining her. Originally, I wasn’t planning on going to Tasmania until the summer since it tends to be a bit colder than the rest of Australia, but once I looked at flight prices and saw that it would only be $160 round trip, I figured why not go twice?! I decided to give myself Thursday and Friday off, and we booked our flights that night. We got an Uber to the airport at 6:15 Thursday morning and arrived at the airport with plenty of time to go through security and have breakfast. A few things that shocked me upon flying within Australia is first, they didn’t ask for identification or boarding passes to go through security and therefore, anyone could go through whether they were getting on a flight or not. The second thing is you can bring an unlimited amount of liquids of any size. I brought through my water bottle and two bags of toiletries and didn’t get stopped at all. Lastly, they didn’t even check identification to get on the plane – they just scanned the boarding passes. I could have given my ticket to a friend and they wouldn’t have known! Everything was a lot more relaxed than what I’m used to.
Our flight was only an hour and fifteen minutes, so we arrived in Hobart just before 10am. We picked up our car rental and started our drive towards Freycinet Park. We made a couple of stops along the way to get some snacks and see some views. Then we made it to Coles Bay (the nearest town) at around 2pm. We stopped at the only restaurant we could find, ordered a pizza to go, and ate next to the water. Then we were ready to go hiking!

In order to see the famous Wineglass Bay, they said it would take an hour and a half round trip. It was only 16 degrees outside, but both of us were so hot walking up to the lookout! We were both dying once we made it to the top, but we only took 22 minutes – half the time! From that point onwards, Beena started joking about whether a specified hiking time would be for normal people, or “Janelle-walking-time.” I guess I tend to speed-hike just as much as I speed-walk… After we went back down, there were two wallabies waiting for us in the parking lot, and one of them even had a baby in its pouch! We then went to a few other short hikes, and then finished our day at Honeymoon Point, where we sat for an hour and waited for the sunset. After that, we did another 2.5 hours of driving to Saint Helens. I knew that the lodge that we’d be staying in would have a cat, but I stupidly only brought Benadryl so by the time we got to Saint Helens, I was nearly passed out. I made myself stay up until 9 and then I was good to go to sleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

On Friday, we stopped at a cute, little bakery in Saint Helens to have breakfast before starting another activity-filled day. We started by checking out Bay of Fires, which is 50km of pristine beaches. There wasn’t a soul to be seen and it was absolutely beautiful! Unfortunately, it was still too cold to have a beach day so we wondered if the beaches were just as quiet during the summer. After exploring for a couple of hours, we left Saint Helens at 10 and started the 4-hour drive to Cradle Mountain. We arrived there at 2pm, had lunch, and then waited for the shuttle to take us to the mountain. What we didn’t realise was that the last shuttle left the mountain at 5pm, so it only gave us two hours to hike. We decided not to do the lake circuit because they said it would take between 2-3 hours (even though we had full confidence in our speed-hiking abilities). Instead, we walked down to the lake and then did a 1.5-hour hike to Ronny Creek, which was another shuttle bus stop. The weather at Cradle Mountain tried to be on our side – apparently the fog had (for the most part) cleared up right when we arrived, but towards the last half hour of our hike, it started raining. The coolest thing about the hike was the amount of wombats that we were able to see! We caught the shuttle back to the
On Saturday morning, we went to Salamanca Market, which happens every Saturday and has about 300 stalls. I got a smoked salmon omelette on a roll for breakfast, which was so good! Tasmania is apparently known for its food, and Hobart definitely did not disappoint! We spent about an hour and a half exploring the market, then drove to the ferry terminal to go to Bruny Island. Fun fact: Bruny Island is the same size as the island of Singapore, but instead of having 5-6 million people, it has a population of about 600. We got to the ferry terminal with ten minutes to spare, got on the ferry, and took the 20-minute trip to the island. We then drove a half hour to the Fluted Cape trail, which is a 2.5-hour hike. Unfortunately for us, it was quite misty and foggy on the island, and it started to pour for nearly our entire walk up the cliff. When we finally got to the top, our view was a white fog into nothingness. Luckily, the fog slowly started to clear as we made it back down, so we were able to see some views (and a couple of wallabies!) on our way down. We were completely soaked and freezing once we got back to the car so we drove to a cheese restaurant and split a cheese and bread platter. We then drove an hour to the very southern part of the island (the southernmost part of Australia) to see the view from the lighthouse. It was FREEZING up there, and the wind nearly blew me off of the cliff! Our plan was to stay until sunset, but we only lasted about 5-10 minutes before we decided we’d rather spend our time next to the car heater. We drove another hour back to the ferry terminal and had to wait about 40 minutes to catch the final ferry back to Hobart. By the time we got back to Hobart, it was about 8pm so we went to a restaurant called Urban Greek and had a delicious late dinner. I had forgotten how good real Greek food was, and it really made me want to go back so I could eat my way through it! I do think Greece was one of my favourite countries to eat in, as everything was so delicious!
On Sunday morning, we arrived at MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) right when it opened at 10am. We had breakfast at a cafe there and split a frittata and a beef & ale pie, which were both so good. And then we decided to also split a slice of carrot cake because I had been talking about carrot cake nonstop the entire weekend, so why not have it for breakfast? We then spent about three hours going through the museum. It’s quite modern and abstract art, and it deals a lot more with other senses rather than just eyesight. I didn’t really understand any of the art, but it was still interesting. It reminded me a lot of the Pompidou Museum in Paris, as the types of art were similar. After the museum, we decided to check out central Hobart, so we walked along the cold harbour and then found a restaurant called Mures, where we had a late lunch (and I had an amazing seafood chowder!). Afterwards, we spent an hour checking out the shops until they closed at 4pm, and then we went to the cinema to watch Crazy, Rich Asians. The last time I’ve been in a cinema was about three years ago when I got a free ticket to watch a movie in London. This is cause I’m too cheap to spend 15-20 dollars to go to a movie. However, since Sunday was a rainy day in Hobart, there wasn’t much else to do. And the movie was cute – Beena and I both cried (I think we have similar tastes in movies). After the movie, we went back to the hostel to rest for an hour and a half cause we had a dinner reservation at a place called Templo for 8:30. The restaurant offered a tasting menu for $65 per person, but we decided to each just get the gnocchetti/anchovy/lemon sauce dish, and then share the swede dish (which here, a swede is a rutabaga). Both dishes were absolutely delicious! We were so full after only eating half our meals, but we couldn’t stop eating them. I was shocked as to how good all of the flavours meshed together!
On Monday, we got up and packed all of our stuff. Beena’s work meetings started at 10am and my bus to the airport left at 10:45, so we parted ways and I stopped at a restaurant called Waffle On. There, I had a bacon and banana cinnamon waffle, which was so amazing (again, the food in Hobart is spectacular, so no surprise!)! I then walked to the bus

stop, took the half hour bus ride to the airport, got screened for a random drug test, went through security, and still had an hour until boarding. Then, I found out that my flight would be delayed by 45 minutes, which is when I decided it would be useful to write this blog post. So here we are! Officially on the flight as I’m finishing this up, and then I’ll have tonight to unpack and repack my stuff to fly to Brisbane tomorrow morning (I’ll be going from 10 degree to 22 degree weather). Hope everyone’s doing well! Love always

Take a Walk – Passion Pit