Today, July 31st is a sad day in Australia for me because firstly, I have my first class tomorrow, and secondly, Pandora is discontinuing its service in Australia and New Zealand as of today. Although I am upset that I will have to adjust to a new music app, it isn’t reasonable for me to complain about the “study” portion of my study abroad trip, especially after having had 3 weeks to enjoy myself. The past couple weeks have been dedicated to finding the best beaches in Australia, watching sunsets, and getting to know my new mates.
After a couple days of getting settled in Brisbane and recovering from the “sleep is not an option” mantra we had in Sydney, I was left with the question of “Now what?” My roommates weren’t scheduled to move in for another week so I joked about feeling all alone in my “penthouse” apartment on the thirteenth floor. I wanted to start feeling comfortable doing my own thing, so my first step to learning Brisbane was to run along the river in Southbank.
The Southbank area, where I am living, is really exciting. I am about a block away from the Parklands, which features a public pool, manmade beach, playgrounds, mini-rainforest, ferris wheel, and bike path all on the river bank! There was a food and wine festival in this area during my first weekend in Brisbane, which I was excited to attend. Also near me is Grey Street, which is lined on both sides by delicious restaurants. There is no possible way that I can try them all before I have to return home, but I’m hoping to make it, at least, to all the dessert places!
|I always find myself stopping mid-run to take pictures of the scenery|
Although I was excited to explore Brisbane, I recognized that Brisbane will be my home base for the next 5 months, so I wanted to take advantage of not having class to leave the city. So in the past 2 weeks, I went north to climb Mt. Ngungun and visit Noosa, and I went south to check out the Gold Coast.
The Gold Coast
|The duffel bag takes Burleigh Heads!|
We checked into our hostel as soon as we arrived in Coolangatta after about 3 hours of transit. The three of us had debated where we should stay in Coolangatta after reading reviews on the Hostel World website. We decided to take a chance on the hostel with mixed ratings but a better price and location, and we were not disappointed.
As soon as we got settled in, we headed right to the beach where I had one of those “OMG, I’m in Australia” moments. The sand was so fine that it squeaked every time we stepped on it. I was taking in the blue water and the skyline of the Gold Coast in the background as I walked down the beach. I noticed a sign on the Surfers’ club that said “From Where You’d Rather Be” and I thought that was funny. At the same time it reminded me of how lucky I was to be in an amazing new place, taking interesting classes, and meeting new friends, so I let that sign remind me to be fully present and appreciative of my time in the Gold Coast and Australia in general.
|"From Where You'd Rather Be"|
|The sunset at Coolangatta - if you look closely, you can see the building I was talking about!|
The next morning, Liz and I woke up early to take advantage of free breakfast at the hostel before we went our separate ways to explore the area. I went back to the beach where we were yesterday, to Snapper Rocks, all the way along the shoreline until I left the state of Queensland entirely and crossed back into New South Wales. I found snorkelers and surfers and fishermen along the way, and I started thinking to myself “I should get a snorkel” or “I would love to fish here.” These thoughts were the reason that I decided I would be ok in Australia and would be able to find my purpose here so I committed to acting on them.
|I found a picture of this exact staircase on Pinterest, but I like mine more because a bush turkey interrupted the shot|
I met Leanne and Liz in the hostel shortly after to check out before boarding our bus to Burleigh Heads. Once again, we set up our towels and enjoyed the beach. Once I got over my “I’m from New York and Australia has never seen cold” mindset, I decided that it was actually cold and that I should get up and walk to get my blood circulating a little better. I walked down the beach a little bit before I started thinking, “it would feel really good to run right now.” After reassuring myself that it didn’t matter that I wasn’t wearing proper running clothes or shoes, I went for it. I noticed the building I had stared at all day yesterday, in the distance along the coast. Curiosity got the best of me as I started thinking “what is that building? Can I run there? Maybe I can walk/run there. I wonder how far away it actually is. Is that beach still considered Burleigh Heads?” I committed to running to the exact point where that building was perpendicular to the beach. My depth perception failed me as I ran, what I thought was maybe 3 miles, ended up being way more. By the end, my toes felt like they were going to split in half from the blisters and I had scabs on my chest where my bikini top rubbed against it. I didn’t care though because this was the first time I ever ran as a mode of discovery. When I finally arrived at the beach, I asked a tourist taking pictures of the ocean what the name of this beach was. I couldn’t stop laughing to myself that I had made it all the way to Surfer’s Paradise because that was our next location! I thought about trying to call Leanne and Liz to tell them to just meet me there, but I didn’t have my phone or any other way of contacting them. I also realized that I didn’t know the time, but judging by the placement of the Sun in the sky (and how hungry I was) I guessed that I had been gone for a maximum of 2 hours. I started to run back, but quickly realized that my feet weren’t “keen” to run.
|Travel hack - we filled our duffel bags with peanut butter, jelly, and bread to save money|
When the 3 of us arrived back in Brisbane, I had FOUR roommates! Keiko had arrived before I left for the
|Meet my roommates! - Gianna, Ashley, me, Rachel, and Keiko|
Later that week, after everyone settled in and got through orientation, we did a beach trip! Everyone wanted to check out the Gold Coast, but having just came from there, I was all for checking out the warmer Sunshine Coast. We decided on Mooloolaba Beach (I’d be impressed if you can pronounce the name of this beach on your first try!) To make the most of the day, we decided to leave by 7 AM so that we could be there all day before the sun sets. Although I did not enjoy the early morning, the experience was so worth it. The water was so clear and decently warm! We walked up and down the beach, swam for a little, and got to know everyone in our group of 13! We definitely made the most of the day, before returning home to watch the premier of The Australian Bachelor (which is even cattier than at home, believe it or not!)
By Friday, the majority of my roommates left for an ACU-sponsored trip to Byron Bay for the exchange students. Silly me signed up for the same trip 2 weeks later, so I had to make a new plan for the weekend. When Nolan sent me a picture of Noosa National Park, I responded with “let’s go.” I had heard amazing things about Noosa anyway and was really excited to check it out. We got together a group of 5 of us (me, Nolan, Kevin, Max, and Jiorden) and left Friday night. As soon as we got there, we walked around Hastings Street where we found a bar with live music. Kevin, from Massachusetts, couldn’t help but feel at home because Noosa reminded him so much of Cape Cod. After enjoying some gelato, beers, and live music, we headed to the beach in pursuit of the stars. The sky was so clear that we were able to see the galaxy, not just the stars! By default, we began to look for the Big Dipper until we realized you can’t see the Big Dipper from the Southern Hemisphere! We did, however, see at least 3 shooting stars!
|The Noosa Crew - Kevin, Jordan, me, Nolan, and Max!|
|Swimming through the Fairy Pools!|
|Casually struggling to avoid harming the coral on the way out of the Fairy Pools|
We ate a late lunch before returning to the hostel to shower and get ready for the sunset. We found the perfect spot, called the Spit, to watch the sunset. At the spot I was standing, there was water on both sides of me beautifully reflecting the sunlight. This was another superlative sunset, and it definitely rivaled the one in Coolangatta. After the sunset, we went to a restaurant called Zachary’s where we got pizza and enjoyed some more live music. We didn’t plan on staying long because we were cold and tired, but we ended up closing the place down. A group of women probably in their mid-forties got up and started to dance for the last couple songs, and inspired us to do the same. Jiorden described the night as “wholesome,” and we all left smiling.
|Jiorden caught me freaking out over the adorable wedding pictures being taken 10 meters away.|