My dear family and friends! My goodness, so much to catch up on! I don’t even really know where to begin. I want to piggyback off of Miles’ post with two ~main~ ideas…
#1) I was very interested to hear that Miles felt/noticed a lot of the same prejudices Cooper and I heard (relentlessly) on the farm. The people that we got to know for the first 6 weeks of our time in Australia lacked understanding for anyone that didn’t look like or act like them.* And while our friends were not around to hear all the rhetoric on the farm, we did of course fill them in on some of our favorite stories. That being said, I do not think our experience shaped Miles’ view of Australia, more that our experiences complemented one another. * I would also like to acknowledge that even though Cooper and I did not see eye-to-eye with our hosts on social or political issues (or even how to refer to marginalized people), we did truly enjoy Kira and the kids’ company. It was a fascinating, troubling, mildly heartwarming paradox.
#2) I agree with Miles in that Australia lacked a palpable identity, but it is hard to discern such a thing from being tourist ESPECIALLY in such a large country. Is there a outstanding “American identity?” All “Americans,” I would argue, do not even share citizenship or geographical location. So what is it?!! In the cities and more affluent areas in Australia (such as Byron Bay and Bondi Beach), the common thread did seem to be eating healthy and going to the beach. And what’s wrong with that!? (@ATomback I could see you loving it here!) Sydney did get voted the Worst City in the World for Nightlife (and 10th Worst Overall). Which we would have found surprising if we didn’t see the article after we tried to go out three nights in a row… with absolutely no success.
“Five years since the notorious ‘lockout laws’ were introduced, Sydneysiders are feeling bereft of after-dark culture: we rated our city worst in the world for nightlife. But what we lack in late-night spontaneity, we make up in health and happiness: 79 percent of us feel content and 71 percent hit the gym, beach or pavements each week, making us the fittest city in the world.
By the way, the same survey found New York City to be… wait for it… the #1 city in the WORLD! So obviously this survey is 100% right and we should all trust its findings completely.
The lockout laws are, from what I understand, that all bars close their doors at midnight. For some, that means night’s over! everyone out! immediately!, but the more lenient bars let you finish your drink. Last call was around 11:45pm. For four Tulanians this was… unorthodox. The “going out” culture seems (from what we’ve heard) to revolve around day parties and small gatherings.
It is worth noting, in spite of all their health-consciousness, Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world. Around 2/3 of Australian adults will have skin cancer in their lifetime. Including our farm hosts and many members of their extended family.
While Sydney was not what I (or Miles) expected, that isn’t necessarily a knock on Sydney. It’s a massive city and, from what Coop and I have learned, cities are not easy on backpackers. And all that being said, we still had an incredible time with our incredible friends. I *still* feel so lucky to have not one, not two, but three!! of our closest friends fly 1/2 way around the world just to hang out with out us. I feel so goshdarn grateful for our people! Now for what we DID!
Going to tryyy to sum up the 2 weeks with Jenny, Jamie, and Miles. Let’s see how it goes!
As you know, we left the farm on March 4th to celebrate the twins’ 2nd birthday in Brisbane. We spent the night at Jackie’s apartment in Redcliffe, a Brisbane beach suburb, and had a lovely trivia evening with her and her date and another couple friend. The next evening, we took the train into the city to our new Air Bnb, had poke bowls for dinner, and caught some Zzzzs before Jenny arrived in the early hours of the next morning. When Jenny got to the apartment it was all hugs and kisses and screams and embraces and happiness all around 🙂 We took the day walking around the city, did some lite shopping, ran into an old Tulane friend!!!! Ilana, and enjoyed beer and pizza and gelato (Messinaaaa <3) for dinner. The next day, hit the open roaaaad!!
We rented a camper van (a Toyota something or other that felt a lot like our car at home, but the old one…) and over the next week, we drove from Brisbane to Bundaberg with MANY fun stops and camping sites and pasta nights and mosquito bites along the way.
Highlights include: a day in Noosa at the beach where we got our wave jumping practice in and tan on 🙂 (or burn if you’re Jenny), a really stunning hike/walk along the Noosa coast (where we saw a Koala in the WILDish), a day at the ZOO! (Steve Irwin’s Zoo, in fact! where we saw and pet more koalas and kangaroos), time in Hervey Bay, beach walks in Bundaberg, revisiting the Herlaar farm and spending the night (this time with Jenny and our camper van), a pre-dawn ‘roo search (very successful… many kangaroos in the ‘burbs), and a broken down car an hour outside of Bris.
As luck would have it, the camper van broke down the morning we were supposed to pick our next guest @JamieL up from the airport. BUT we reunited at a groovy clothing store (again, hugs and cheers and kisses and love everywhere), returned the car, got some drinks, shot the shit, kibitzed, caught up on the last 5 or so months, and laughed and laughed and laughed together! Then we lugged our luggage to our new Air BnB (view pictured!!~!! woweee) and dined on the Brisbane River with Tulane-run-in-friend, Ilana, and her boyfriend, Sam! Apres dinner the Js went home and the couples went out to a funny bar where, unbeknownst to us, it was ~college night~ and even WE felt lifetimes older than the average present. We sipped our vodka sodas whist scoffing at the youngins’ tomfoolery.
Going out with Ilana and Sam was exciting and fun and different on a lot of levels, but two things really stood out to me: 1. they’re fellow backpackers! Despite the fact that none of our backpacking countries were the same (they explored South and Central America), we shared so many similar stories and experiences about hostels and stomach bugs and language barriers and traveling with your s/o… which leads me to 2. they’re a couple! save for our AMAZING, incredible, heartwarming, luxurious 36 hours with Alex and Ben (I love you guys so much… I can’t say it enough), we haven’t spent time with another couple since leaving America (and not really before leaving either…) but it was so refreshing and exciting to be with two people who shared our lifestyle!
The next morning (6am! Monday, March 11), we were greeted by a happy Miles who jumped in our bed and with his arrival, FINALLY, the NYC –> AUS squad was fully assembled! A mere 3 hours later we were all packed up and ready to hit the road once again… this time for Gold Coast! En route, we hit a small “hike” (100m walk) to a waterfall where we lounged and splashed around in the sun then continued on to the Miami of Australia!!
In Gold Coast we ate (more poke for me!), saw the beach, but then the weather turned so we decided to check into our Air Bnb. Unfortunately, there are problems from the get-go… Jamie, Miles, and Jenny spent over an hour trying to find the building, then the key, then the apartment while Coop and I guarded the poorly parked car (thinking the whole ordeal would take all of 5 minutes). I’ll spare you the details of *all* the issues, but here’s a short list: flooding / completely soaked floors in both bedrooms (ew), one of two showers not working at all, tv would not turn on, wifi couldn’t connect, fridge was not plugged in… the list goes on. The weirdest part was the apartment was REALLY nice (except for the aforementioned issues). Gorgeous, sleek spot overlooking the city on one side and the beach on the other, but it was not ready to be lived in or even rented for one night. Miles put it best when he dubbed it “the Ikea spot”. In the evening the sky cleared up enough for the 5 of us to go on a scenic beach walk! Cooler temp meant mosquitoes and unfortunately (and comically) while swatting at a lil stinger, Jamie lost control of her iPhone and threw it to the cement sidewalk, shattering it completely. We found a secluded sandbank to watch the sunset and have a catch. And mourn the phone.
We left Gold Coast on Tuesday heading to what I think was the unanimous favorite location: Byron Bay! On our way down, we stopped at Tropical Fruit World where we tried all sorts of yummy treats including Miracle Fruit (have you tried??) which makes sour tasting things sweet. We struck up conversation with a passionate fruit specialist / expert and he thought we were entertaining enough to give us a tasting of this wild fruitdrug. We let the red, orzo-sized fruit sit on our tongue for a minute and then each bit into a juicy lime wedge and… woah. the lime was the sweet!! sweet sweet sweet. It had completely lost any tangy / sourness!! We unanimously decided we loved Tropical Fruit World so we ate (and bought) all sorts of things — longan for Coop (his new favorite we discovered in SE Asia), persimmons for me (Shawne, THIS was the fruit from the weasel coffee farm in Dalat that I didn’t know the name of!), jackfruit*** for Jenny, guanabana (aka soursop) for Miles, Lady Finger bananas (we don’t have these in America and they’re delicious) for Jamie, and mangoes and avocados and miracle fruits all around.
***It is worth nothing that the jackruit is HUGE and spiky and was schlepped around for the next week in the Australian summer and left in the hot car and, yes, it was *spoiler alert* (no pun intended) rotten by the time we cut into it and all the dumbasses who tried it (everyone but Coop) had itchy, stingy throats the rest of the night. . ………
re: bananas, listen to this pod about “the most interesting fruit in the world”
So we carry on from Tropical Fruit World all excited and loaded up on fruit and head to lunch at this very beautiful spot, Harvest (thank you Jamie, our social chair, for making the res in 2018 😉 ) Jamie and I had maybe the best oyster of our lives (no cap) among other deliciousities (I thought this was a real word?) including ‘roo steaks (for the omnivores. pictured in last post). Finally, we arrived at our bohemian oasis Air Bnb in Byron Bay!!
Going to try to speed through Byron Bay… and not because we didn’t love it as I mentioned, it might have been our favorite spot! But, I’ve been writing this post bit by bit for weeks now… In Byron we: beached a lot, walked a lot, took in magnificent views, enjoyed the boho, young, beach town and our great Air Bnb (thank you again, @JamieL), snorkeled, made a big dinner together (and several fruit salads), went out to eat, enjoyed each others company 🙂
After 3ish days and 2 nights in blissful Byron, we made our way back to Bris to catch our flight to Sydney, but the flight was cancelled (conveniently after Coop and I paid a combined, additional $200 for our bags, and yes, to this day 6/6/19, we are still fighting Tigerair to get that money back). Miles finagled his way to the front of the line (ty Mills) and our ragtag group of 5 was the first to change our flights out of Bris to Sydney a day later. We secure another, very cool, Air Bnb while still in the Brisbane airport and prepare for our flight at the asscrack of dawn (pre-sunrise) the next morning.
Finally! We are in SYDNEY! Take in our new neighborhood of Bondi Beach (think Brooklyn meets the ocean) and go for a quick rest in the house (which includes watching Abducted in Plain Sight on Netflix) before the Js and I 🙂 going on a KIIICCKKK ASS coastal walk from Bondi to Coogee (another suburb about 3 miles away). Then we all meet back up for dinner at a highly recommended spot, Farmhouse, before trying (and failing) to go out (I think this is attempt #1) in addition to the lockout laws noted above, it was pouring, making going out both less desirable and more difficult. Needless to say, attempt #1 was not a success. But dinner was! It was a tasting menu (or prix fix…? are they the same? I don’t use them interchangeably really…. but can you?) The highlight for Cooper and me was a crab soup that featured…. drum roll please….. finger limes! The same variety we farmed in Australia! And they were delicious. The whole meal was really spectacular. @JamieL, great find!! and if you’re ever in Sydney I would say: run!
The rest of the weekend we take in Sydney vibes by enjoying the harbor, taking in the art scene at MCA, eating more gelato (again, thank you Messina), drinking beer and listening to street performers, aaannnddd try to go out at night a few more times…. As a final farewell on Sunday night before Jamie started her journey back to America the next morning, we hit up Palmer & Co. (an over-the-top, 1920s themed, cocktail bar) and Mr. Wong (high-end Chinese food) for dinner. [Thank you Mom and Dad for the lovely final evening. It was such a special treat made possible by you two and we had an incredible time 🙂 ❤ ]
After Jamie left there was a real sense of “what are we going to do now” as she was our social chair and plan maker extraordinaire, but we managed okay! On Monday, we checked out more galleries and parks and a botanical garden and all was well and good until…. we are about to indulge in some gelato (yes, at Messina) when I realize my phone is nowhere to be found… maybe I gave it to Cooper?! or left it in the bathroom? maybe back at the park…. We retrace our steps and nothing. Because it is 2019, both Cooper and Jenny track my phone (via Find My Friends) and we see it is on a ferry heading to the Zoo?!?!? @Miles spearheads Operation GMPB (Get My Phone Back) and decides we’re going to follow whoever has my phone and catch them redhanded! We run to the ferry and as we are running I am frantically texting my own phone from my friends’ offering rewards and begging for its return (you should know, I don’t have a passcode on my phone so all messages just pop up and are visible to any user!) I call again and again and finally someone picks up! I am so out of breath and hyped up on adrenaline and panting and have NO idea what to say to the PHONE THIEF so I just start rambling about offering a reward and paying for my phone back and blah blah blah when the woman on the other line stops me to apologize for not answering sooner but she was CHARGING it for me (of course I had 10% battery…) and that her DOCTOR husband (AN OBGYN!) will bring it back to the city the next day. He saw it in the street on his way home and he wasn’t going to the zoo… they just live near there. Jenny and I went to the gyno’s office the next day and his assistant HOW LUCKY I AM that Dr. Tuncer Cimenbicer found it because hes the nicest man on the planet etc. etc. etc. And so,,,, as always, lucky me! Thank yous to Miles, Jenny, and Cooper who were all ready, willing, and maybe able?, to take down my phone thief and to Dr. Tuncer Cimenbicer and his wife and assistant for finding and returning and charging my phone. We think now that while @Jenny and I were having a big ole laugh on a street corner, my phone slipped out of my back-pocket. No pick-pocketer at all!
The remainder of our days with Miles and Jenny were spent on different beaches, driving around exploring Sydney and her suburbs including a breath-taking hike on their last day before Thai takeout and beers on our balcony and lots and lots of card games. On Friday morning, the four of us woke up early, did the coastal walk (the same one Jenny, Jamie, and I had done earlier in the week), and with very heavy hearts parted ways early afternoon.
It is safe to say that day was the hardest of all our backpacking. Cooper and I sat at an outdoor cafe with nowhere to go and no friends and no plan and I cried at our little table surrounded by our 5 bags </3 We had planned for this time with Jenny and Jamie and Miles for SO LONG. We had spent so much meaningful time together from Bundy to Sydney… camping and hiking and beaching and learning about each other and ourselves and the places we visited and showing our very best friends a tiny window into what we had been doing since we left America… our goodbye was hard, but with all things sad it is comforting to love something so much you can feel that sad about it. When Miles and Jenny drove away, Miles put his hand out the car, touched his thumb to his index finger, and crossed them forming a tiny heart with his index and thumb (try it and see!). We learned this in Vietnam as a way to say “I love you” and taught it to our friends who gave it right back to us.
Big thank you yet again to ALL our people who have traveled countless hours and spent their hard earned dollars to hang around with us! I can’t believe how lucky we are!!
More posts coming more frequently from here on out. Signing off from BULGARIA! 3 Months since Jenny arrived in Australia and I’m just posting about it now….
Lots of love 🙂