I have three roomies – all of which are from England. I get along with them incredibly well, they are: Lauren S. who has been here for a couple days less than I, is 18 years old and has a strong Bristol accent which I adore; Lauren C. who has been here the same amount of time as Lauren S. (they didn’t know each other prior), is 19 years old and is from posh Oxford; then there is Rachel who is from Northern England, is 23 years old and has been here for nearly two years now. Having Rachel with us was a big bonus as she has been nearly around the entire country in her two years here. In order for a Brit to get their second year visa they have to perform hard labor (on blueberry farms for example) in excruciating heat for very poor pay. I have only heard nightmarish tales of the 88 days they have to spend on the farms but of the dozen that I have met thus far in my travels all seem to think Australia is worth it! Anyways, she wanted to see Byron Bay before she heads home in two months and the Laurens, Kristin and I wanted to go to the Currumbin Sanctuary to cuddle Koalas. Naturally this leads one to renting a car and taking a scenic day trip with new found friends.
“Dave’s Cheap Car Rentals” is in a little nook of our reception area – and despite being slightly sketchy looking at first I would confidently recommend them to those who may be in the area in the future. We were able to get a very nice, modern… mini van for only 25 dollars a piece for 24 hours. We piled in before 10 am that morning with “Papa Rach” (Rachel’s nickname as the experienced travel in the bunch after Papa Roach) at the wheel. She drove us first to the Currumbin Sanctuary, along the way I paid attention to the driving differences. The turning signal is used by her right hand and it is strange adjusting to my surroundings as the mirrors are all opposite too. They use the metric system here, as most countries do, so seeing her at 120 KPH not MPH was key for my sanity. The spelling is funny too, speaking of “metres” (meters) here are a few examples:
Favorite – Favourite
Tire – Tyre
Color – Colour
Center – Centre
And back to the roadtrip -> we arrived at the sanctuary after about 40 minutes of driving down a five lane motorway. It is less like a zoo with cages and more like walking through Yellowstone National Park for example if you have been there. The area is lush with eucalyptus and rain forest’s full of wildlife. There weren’t too many visitors there on this fine Sunday which was nice. Straight away, after entering with a 50% off voucher, you see roughly 20 – 30 koalas just hanging about in the trees. Some are sleeping, itching their ears like dogs or stretching at odd angles. They are close enough to almost touch but of course you don’t (or maybe it is because they are about to be fed by one of their care takers and you are afraid you will be kicked out before getting to see the kangaroos). We decided to walk through the entire sanctuary before coming back to cuddle the Koalas and taking a picture with them. It was about two hours of walking which began through an aviary (not so impressed) but as you walk through the paths, a few times you will hear rustling in a bush. We finally figured out it was sort of a miniature turkey bird that digs holes just like a dog… literally like a dog wanna-be or poser. Kind of comedic. We moved through the winding paths until we reach a fenced in park area filled with at least fifty kangaroos chilling out, it is as simple as opening the swinging gate to get it the fenced area and walking up to a kangaroo and petting them. There are loads of them. We only saw a few hop or move around while most were basking in the sun as folks itched their ears like one would a dog. They seemed to be fairly simple and happy animals – hopefully this doesn’t mislead me in the future when I see one in the wild and casually get punched in the face.
There were some crocodiles and one monstrous dinosaur which they called a crocodile but they didn’t move so my attention span for them didn’t last long. There were also little lizards everywhere, running and jumping around the paths. At first it was unusual and two hours later it’s as casual as seeing ants. We saw dingos from afar and eels and turtles in the lakes. All of the snakes were thankfully kept within their glass cages – although there were some that seemed a mile long and powerful so I kept a safe distance from the glass. Another animal I came across was an EMU which I mistook for an Ostrich at first. They are creepy scary looking animals as well though – but despite the odds I crept up slowly towards one for a selfie (duh). The Carer had a giggle at that and said he was nice as could be – his name is Larry (the Emu that is).
Eventually we made it back to the Koala station to get our cuddles. There was NO queue which was amazing. I was able to go first and walked forward to the carer who told me to interlock my fingers and she would set the Koala’s bum on my hands. He was a medium sized fellow and I got to pet him first – very soft and sweet. She set him in my hands and his hands/claws/paws
clung gently to my arms with their four fingers. He looked at me at first with his cute round black nose and big dark eyes until the carer turned his head toward the camera for the picture. I absolutely fell in love with his cuddly ears and soft eyes – the perfect pet in my eyes! (Dad my birthday is coming up in two weeks :))
After we all had our cuddles and photos we headed back to the van for the rest of our road trip. We took the scenic route to Byron as opposed to the motor way. This involved a random beach, crossing into my SECOND state within Australia: New South Wales and quaint little towns. I tried to find something I could remember from each town but it is hard blogging even a day after the event. While on the trip I try to write a bit in my head but it is soon forgotten with each new piece of our adventure. I do, however, remember one town smelling like sweet corn and a town shortly after (mind you these are all in the rolling mountainous area of New South Wales just north of Byron Bay) that smelled like maple syrup. I would have these moments through the valleys that had horse ranches and small villages thinking this is the most picturesque thing I have seen here yet and then contradict myself when thinking the same thing from the tops of the mountains in the winding roads.
We eventually made it past a little wooden sign for Byron Bay “Stay Chill” and headed through the short streets filled with quaint shops everywhere. It was full of people busking and barefoot, a bit hippie but very laid back and relaxed. I loved it, Kristin and I may return here for New Years to spend more time and see the guys on the Footie Team from Melbourne we have been keeping in touch with that we met our first weekend here. I haven’t had a chance to blog about them as much for lack of time the first weekend but we met them on our second day here and spent the entire first weekend with them. They stayed next door and bought drinks, watched the AFL superbowl game with us Saturday and explored the city with us. They stayed out later than us each night but when it got chilly, someone said “Hey I’ll be right back” and returned with a long sleeved jacket to keep warm with, a couple of us sat on the beach during the wee hours of the morning to look at the stars… a very solid weekend.
I digress…. Back to Byron Bay – after we walked on the beach a bit we headed up to the light house on a cliff that ran out into the ocean a ways. We made it up there just in time to see the sunset over the Bay’s Mountainous west end. You could walk around the entire lighthouse on the edge of the short peninsula and see a steep cliff drop off the East side and then just thousands of miles of ocean. Please refer to my previous post about Whale Watching so as to not be distracted by the Ocean’s glorious facade which is actually quite terrifying.
When it got chilly and the sun was gone we went back down to Byron for supper in a small alley not far from the beach with a few small cafes crammed into a little space. We chose the Lazy Italian and I got the Chicken Schnitzel with Roasted Italian Veggies followed by a small cup of Gelato which was called Hokey Pokey.
The ride back took about an hour and a half on the motorway and we were all quite tired when we got back. It was early to bed for Kristin and I as our first day of work (and finally being paid again – two weeks on the spot of being unemployed has got to be a record). We had to be at work in Helensvale at 10 am at Imagine That Photography’s headquarters to meet with Carly, the head of PR Operations. She is from Ireland and moved here about 4 years ago to stay. We spent the first two hours filling out paperwork and then a few of the girls took us to lunch at the “Options Tavern’ in the mall a block away, I got the Chicken Schnitzel with Green Pepper there too but not quite as good as the night before. After that we went to a studio to watch the
guys on the job for a bit, asked some questions and headed home to Surfers Paradise. It is my last night in the Islander and Surfers Paradise tonight as tomorrow morning Kristin and I head to Helensvale (by Tram and then Bus for about an hour trip via public transportation each way). We are going to leave at 6 am and have to be there at 7:30 to be picked up by separate studio managers (two different mobile studio locations) with all of our luggage stowed in the car to shadow them all day. Our work day is 8:30 am to 5:30 pm. We will then reunite at the staff accommodations in Helensvale so we no longer have to make the travel. The accommodation has six separate rooms and the girls we have met talked very highly of it – also important is that it is paid for and so is travel. We will then be training together again on Wednesday and on Thursday/Friday I think we will be separate again on the job. Towards the end of our training today we saw our names on the board for Studio 4 (there are 10 total). So naturally we investigate the other posters and writing on the walls to discover Studio 4 is in WA (Western Australia) so we may just be headed to West to Perth or those whereabouts in a week’s time.
Side-note: one of my roommates, Lauren S., from Bristol applied and was accepted by the Imagine That Photography team
too. Carly mentioned today that she may try to keep all three of us together which would be so great! We also get four weeks off for the holiday, Christmas and New Years, so we are planning a New Zealand trip during that time too.
I just got back from Wooly’s (Woolworths) with a bag of Snow Peas to snack on for a healthy nibble and off to bed early for this working girl.