“Why would you want to go to Australia when everything there wants to kill you?”
I know better than that, but that is the general consensus of my American friends and what social viral websites like Buzzfeed have been portraying Australia in with lists such as “Why Australia is the Land of the NOPE!”. However accurate or inaccurate those lists are, they’re still pretty amusing.
My plan for Australia is simple:
- Go to Australia.
- Visit friends.
- Get the heck out of Australia.
Continent number two of my Quest to the Seven Continents. I’ve heard that the country is one of the most expensive in the world, so one mustn’t mess around. I’ve acquired a hefty number of Aussie mates over my previous travels that I felt that now is the perfect time to visit as many as I could. It will also help save me loads on accommodation. All the “for real” Australian stuff like the Outback, Darwin, The Great Barrier Reef, etc, I will use as an excuse to return one day.
With that being said, I decided to begin my trip to the largest island in the world in one of its brightest cities: Brisbane.
I’ll start relatively in the north in Brisbane on the east coast and work my way down and around to Perth on the west coast. Then I’ll peace out.
I am excited to see friends I haven’t seen in a long time, but Australia was never high on my list of places to see because I knew how similar to the States it is. I shall find out!
I endured a flight from Nadi, Fiji to Melbourne, Australia where I had a ten-hour layover before the next flight to Brisbane. Once I landed in Brisbane, I had some time to kill before I would go see Australian friend #1, so I decided…
“You know what? I’m gonna rent a car for the day and explore the city!”
That was my first mistake in Australia.
Renting a car wasn’t terribly expensive so that wasn’t the issue. Driving on the wrong left side of the road wasn’t too bad either (I got loads of experience in New Zealand a couple of months ago). But driving on the left side of the road while navigating through Google Maps in a busy city was nerve wrecking! I almost hit a guy on a bicycle!
Google Maps directed me to the center of Brisbane, near the Queen Street Mall, where I parked into the first parking lot I could find. I parked there for a few hours to explore the city on foot and upon return a few hours later, that parking space cost me $55 Australian Dollars! At the time of this post, $1 USD equals roughly $1.32 AUS. Not a huge significance but still costly.
Later on, I drove about 15 minutes outside of the epicenter to my friend Zara. I met Zara in Nepal in November 2014. She was notable because she helped me organize the big party for a few of my classes I taught there. She is the first of many Aussie friends I planned on seeing. I also got rid of my rental. I couldn’t be bothered trying to drive in the city.
Zara showed me to my room in her apartment and as I settled in, a giant dangly insect that I’ve never seen before flew right onto my bed.
“Zaraaaaa!” I shouted.
I wasn’t afraid of it, I just needed to know what it was. She came into the room.
“What the heck is that?” I asked, bewildered to what I just saw.
“It’s just a flying spider,” she said.
A FLYING spider? That’s a real thing??
This was only my first night in Australia. What other crazy shit creatures was I gonna encounter?
For old times sake, we had dinner in a Nepalese style restaurant along with a few of her friends including her pal Dorelle from the Sunshine Coast. She was also in Nepal but at a different time than I was.
While Zara went to work the following day, I made a plan to meet Pip, another Aussie friend of mine. I met Pip in Tanzania in July 2012 and since then she has become the director of Many Shades, a program in Arusha designed to help less fortunate children get the love and care they deserve.
We spent the day playing indoor putt-putt, visiting her home, and going to one of the most amazing food festivals I have ever been to called the Eat Street Market. I stuffed myself to the max there. Props to Pip for remembering that I am in love with food.
Later in the week, Zara mentioned a festival called the Jacaranda Jazz festival in a nearby park. I invited Pip along with another friend of mine who lived there. His name is Clint. He is from the USA, but has been studying here in Brisbane for awhile now. I met him while backpacking through Thailand in August 2013 and he’s notable because we, along with a few other backpackers spent a crazy night in Bangkok together which involved boozing out of buckets, eating scorpions, fondling wax statues, and witnessing ping pong balls shoot out of places they weren’t meant to shoot out of. The jazz festival was chill and it was good to catch up with everyone.
While in Fiji, Sydney native Hamish constantly raved about something he called an HSP (Halal Snack Pack). It’s shaved lamb meat over french fries (they call them chips here) topped with a specialty sauce or two and other small ingredients. You can find it mainly on the east coast of Australia. Zara, a few of her friends, and I ordered some and dang was it delicious! Australia needs to introduce this to the States right now! The perfect snack for when you have the munchies.
I spent a little under a week in Brissy in Zara’s place. It worked out perfectly that her roommate was in Argentina when I was there, so I had a whole room to myself. I found out she is a fan of red wine so I left a present on her bed upon her return.
Dorelle invited me up to stay in the Sunshine Coast for a few days. I had no prior intention on going up there but figured I may as well see it since I’m already so close to it. That’s one of the perks about travelling without an itinerary…you can take on opportunities to unexpected places with unexpected people.
My Thoughts About Brisbane
Coming into Australia with low expectations was probably a smart idea. I’m not really all that into city scenes, but I can’t deny how impressed I was with what I saw so far. Brisbane was busy, but chill. Not too overcrowded. The outdoorsy Queen Street Mall had a variety of different shops, cafes, restaurants, you name it. Just a short walk across the winding harbor took me into Southbank, where I strolled through Griffith University and into a couple of museums.
I noticed how clean Brisbane was compared to many other cities I’ve been to. Zara lived near a hipster area with lots of unique eateries and hang out spots. The Eat Street Market was perhaps my favorite part of Brisbane. There were food stalls from all around the world for days. The Iranian Film Festival Zara took me to was also pretty cool and out of the ordinary.
The weather was pleasant for my entire stay and the public transportation was easy enough to figure out. The purple bloomed jacaranda trees filled the streets to create a unique offering all to its own. I don’t have anything negative to say about the city. Brisbane…I like you! So far so good Australia.
Next up: The Sunshine Coast Vs The Gold Coast