January 4, 2012

Sydney to Brisbane

Can't even see the floor of our hostel room in Sydney.  That's what happens when you live with boys for weeks on end I guess.

We have arrived in Brisbane safe and sound.  It has been an interesting journey filled with new foods, new people, over a dozen beaches, and more national parks than I could’ve imagined. 

We hitched a ride with an elderly guy named Robert.  We met him in a cafĂ© near our hostel in King’s Cross, which is the stripper, druggie, whore walking center in Sydney.  I can’t say it wasn’t entertaining to stay there.  Anyway, Robert had posted space in his car on Gumtree.com.au (similar to Craig’s List) from Sydney to Brisbane.  He met with and interviewed over twenty backpackers!  He spent three hours with us talking about travels, spirituality, and camping and we went with him to China Town to meet his friend for a late lunch.  He didn’t give us a definitive answer and I was convinced he wouldn’t choose us.  Who would want to travel with a brother sister duo if you can take two attractive young French girls?  Well, I guess he liked our style because the next morning he asked when we would be ready to depart.  Score for the McCarty team! 

After a night of copious drinking, me taking off with a French guy I had met the night before, breaking my asexual trend with a hot and steamy make out session (don’t worry Mom, it would have definitely passed as a 1996 PG-13 scene), crashing around 4am, waking the very hung over and looking-like-he’d-just-escaped-Death Connor at 8:30am, running a few errands then catching a train to meet Robert, we were off for Brisbane. 

Let me start by saying that Robert sucks.  He’s not the kind of person I would ever wish to see again.  At first, I thought he was pretty cool.  He seemed well traveled, spiritual, and interesting.  After two days, I came to find he is judgmental, pessimistic, passive aggressive, and has no sense of humor.  As a result, he has few friends and seems to hone in on befriending young Asian women (of which there are many here), providing them with favors, and then guilt trips them into meeting up with him to get a coffee or dinner.  I understand he’s probably lonely but he’s very strange.  Tonight he very passive aggressively tried to tell me the Australian way to clean dishes, yesterday he was correcting my pronunciation of tomato, and the day before, let me drive only to criticize my driving.  I know this is so black of me, but I’m holding my temper because he has offered us free housing in Brisbane.  Oddly though, he won’t give us a key and has quarantined our stuff to a very small corner of his living room.  God I can’t wait to quit him like a bad habit.  He has been nice for the ride and seeing things we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to though. 

We spent several nights in national parks, one hiding out between sand dunes of a beach, and a couple in a camp park in Byron Bay before settling into Robert’s very nice apartment in Brisbane.  Along our four night journey, a couple of places to note are Diamond’s Head beach where we camped which has beautifully ancient red and orange volcanic rock pools, nice bushwalks, and a 100+ year old cabin. Crescent Head beaches have phenomenal surf waves, grid-like coal-colored volcanic rocks, a beautiful view, and rocks you can brace yourself to and challenge the oncoming waves.  We took the coastal road into Byron Bay to escape the incoming traffic.  Byron Bay is nearly the Boulder equivalent of Australia but on the beach.  Everybody wants to come here, visit here, work here, surf here, or party here.  Just south of Byron is Lennox where we swam in a lake completely saturated with tea tree oils from the tea trees lining its banks.  The water looks black from above and dark red from within, like you’re swimming in a tea cup.  The water is a smoother silk than any other water I’ve ever swum in and we were the only backpackers there because only locals know about it.  Robert has been good for at least places like this, though he hurries us along and just simply bothers me.  In Byron Bay, we visited the light house (a must see), some beaches slightly north of the main beach that are much more secluded, had some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had, and listened to some wonderful didgeridoo music.

Our campsite was a thirty-minute walk from the main strip and an easy birthday walk.  Yes, this is where I spent my 21st birthday.  Bless Connor’s heart because he tried so hard to make my birthday something memorable, whereas Robert just made me frustrated.  i wish Connor knew that I’m celebrating my 21st birthday for ten weeks, not just one day, because we just threw back a couple of drinks at the two hotspots in Byron- the Railway Pub and the Beach Hotel.  It was just a chill night of drinking.  We had met Robert so he could have a water after he told me he’d have a beer at the Railway Pub.  Connor and I bluntly left him as quick as we could before we continued on to the Beach Hotel.  In the end I was just relieved to have some time with just me and Connor. 

On the bright side, yesterday Connor and I each spent $1,400 for ten days of accommodation, food, transport, sailing, snorkeling, six dives, 4-wheele-driving, lake swimming, beach sitting, camping, and night festivities on the famous dingo-covered Fraser Island and in the Whitsunday Islands.  This will be my biggest birthday celebration and I am so excited!  I know it’s expensive but it’s one of the best deals offered.  And it includes our trip up to Cairns.  I can’t believe we’ll only have one week left after that!  Boy does time fly!

Today was our first full day in Brisbane.  Robert showed us around.  We made it to the brand new Museum of Contemporary Art, which was fascinating and entertaining.  They had some strange interactive and childish exhibits but they were also so much fun.  This evening, Robert made us fried rice with broccoli and tofu and it was actually very good.  The fact that he was once a chef is one of his redeemable characteristics, though I also hate it because he’s constantly criticizing and making underhand insults about my cooking.  Everything happens for a reason though and you meet everyone for a reason.  I met Robert so that he could teach me the proper way to cook rice, show me the beautiful southern east coast of Australia, show me where to get great vegetarian sushi in Brisbane for $2.20, and introduce me to a place where I definitely want to return to.

South of Brisbane he introduced us to the largest spiritual community in Australia known as the New Govardhana farm.  The community members there practice Hare Krishna out of India, but they also provide accommodation and food for backpackers willing to work four hours a day.  Not bad. 

When we arrived, I felt I had been transported straight out of Australia and into an India with only white people.  There were beautiful plants, fruit groves, vegetable plots, lily pad ponds, swamp trees, people draped in cloth in exchange for sewn clothes, Brahman cows, and beautifully colored fabrics, and carts.  We were also served a free lunch for which we took off our shoes, sat on a mat, and ate the craziest flavors of vegetarian food with only our right hands.  Seriously, just like India.  Since coming to Australia I have developed a tentative plan to return to Australia to work for a year.  their minimum wage is about $20!  I would love to pay off my student loans in only a year of full time work and I am now hoping to return to this place for at least a week or two to learn about organic farming, and spend some time in a beautiful and peaceful place.  It’s not a bad thing that there is also a very cool rabbit.  He is so docile and chill and just hangs around.  He even jumped in the river after his owner just the morning before!  I can’t believe he’s a rabbit. 

So yes, Brisbane.  Tomorrow Connor and I are headed to the internationally famous Australia Zoo that was founded by Steve Irwin, bless his soul.  I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.  I love and miss you all and thank you for your birthday wishes.  Cheers!

Our first live koala and it was WILD!  Apparently it's rare to see them in nature these days.  Endless hours of scouting for wildlife in Africa must have done my eye sight some good.

I woke up to this pair munching our tent's front lawn.
That's Robert.  I didn't know you could get this close to wild 'roos!

The biggest wild lizard I've ever seen!  A goanna!

Diamond Head beach is a beautiful spot north of Sydney.
Crescent Head was definitely worth seeing.
Some guys just weren't strong enough...
For those of you who have spent any time hiking or walking with me you know that sometimes I find a detail in nature that I transfix on and can't leave until I've gotten a picture I'm happy with.  I had never seen rock like this before, probably because Colorado wasn't formed by crazy-ass volcanoes, and had to find a way to depict just how awesome it was.  Thank you Connor for lending me your feet :D
Who's ever heard of a pub with no beer?
Famous Byron Bay.
Byron Bay light house.

Connor woke up with a swollen eye.  Haha.  He looks like he's morphing into a gargoyle but, unfortunately, he's only been bitten by a mossie.
If you ever want to swim in a giant tea cup go to the Tea Tree Lakes in Lennox.  
Welcome to the largest Hare Krishna spiritual community in Australia.


  1. Once again, fabulous post and pictures! It's really wonderful that you are getting to experience backpacking in Australia and all that the land and people have to offer. As far as Robert, he's probably also come into your life to learn something from you and Connor and for you to learn patience and the ability to look in at yourself and observe the different feelings that arise when you're with him so that you may understand what you have to work on. Happy birthday as well! Super way to spend it! Much love, Tristen

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  3. Hi Jend - I came across your beautiful photo of a girl's face in the tea tree lake at Lennox Head and traced it back to your blog. I'd like to get in contact with you to discuss whether I could use the image. Thanks Petria

  4. You can email me at petriawallace@gmail.com
    Look forward to hearing from you. Petria