Tag Archives: Down Under

Fraser Island, A Queensland Gem

Roughly 200km North of Brisbane is Fraser Island. A peaceful island listed on the Australia National Heritage List that is protected because of the islands significance to the country. Essentially, it’s an important landmark whose value is seen beyond just physically being there. I had the privilege of traveling to the island on a day trip back in November 2007. It was very easy to coordinate travel – booked a spot with the company, arrived at the Roma Street station and hopped on a bus that took us out to the island.

I admit to sleeping some of the way on the way out because it was rather early, but I was awake when we came upon the ferry that would take us to and from the island. Our bus drove right on and we were allowed to walk around and marvel at the scenery.

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Once on the island our bus took us on a ride. The vehicles are equipped to handle the sandy surface of the island and while there were, naturally, a few bumps along the way it was a pleasant experience.

Our first stop was to the Wanggoolba Creek and Boardwalk. A lush, dense area of the island that is surrounded by ferns and other native plants. It says that there is a creek there, and it’s there, you can hear it, but upon first inspection you see nothing. It looks as if it is just sandy, dry creek bed. When in fact, the water is so pure and clear that you have to physically change your perspective in order to see it flowing.

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Even now, I look at that above photo and wonder where the water is.

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From here we traveled up a sandy path to possibly one of the most beautiful places I have ever been, Lake McKenzie. It is a pure, freshwater lake that is filled only by rainwater. As soon as you step onto the main beach you hear the difference, a suction-like sound with each step. That is due to the pure-silica sand. The sand is what gives the lake its shine and glimmer. I was told that if I were to take the pure-silica sand and rub it on my body that it would smooth out my skin. It was an odd sensation at first but I could not deny that my skin felt softer and more refreshed after I was finished.

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Swimming in pure water like that of Lake McKenzie was unlike any other swimming experience I’ve ever had. There aren’t any impurities in the water, no animal byproducts, and no plant life of any kind because the lake cannot sustain it. When I opened my eyes underwater I could see forever. I still haven’t experienced anything like it since.

As I reclined on my towel, taking in the scenery, I knew that this was the perfect way to end the day on Fraser Island.

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In Brisbane

It’s been called Brisneyland or Bris Vegas on account that it’s a place to party and have a good time. I didn’t know that until I arrived and given the amount of time I spent there, partying, learning, taking in the scenery I feel confident that I can say I agree with those two nicknames. Now, that doesn’t mean that there are rides and attractions all over the city, but there is plenty to do and see that makes the entire city fun and enjoyable – and not just for the adults, for the entire family too.

After a quick flight up from Melbourne, Brisbane was a welcome sight. Firstly, there was a ton of sun and it was much warmer to boot – and this was still July (Winter) but I felt right at home because the weather is so similar to what I experience in California. Secondly, it was just nice to finally be in the city I was going to call home for the next six months.

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View from apartment balcony

I was put up in an apartment just off Coronation Drive and it was conveniently located to a shopping centre complete with market, a subway & CityCat ferry terminal, and more importantly the bar/restaurant The Regatta, and a First Choice Liquor, a store similar to the American BevMo or Total Wine & More. I would end up spending many a night at The Regatta, no matter what day of the week it turned out to be. What more could I ask for?

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The city close up

This being my introduction into Brisbane I didn’t want to do anything too rash or get lost so with a small group of about four or six, we set about exploring the surrounding area and found that if we wanted to find something relaxing to do after a day at Uni or just on the weekend, we could find it in this area or easily hop on the public transit and go somewhere else. We were situated just on the outskirts of the city to experience the night life, but also far enough away so that we could have some peace and quiet when we wanted. The best of both worlds.

It wasn’t a long flight but it was a quick transition into “OK, I’m here now and tomorrow is when I actually have to do work” because there was an orientation the next day and it was for all international students so we could get our IDs, change any classes on our schedule and other administrative stuff. I didn’t fly to Australia to just party, I was there with a purpose…but partying was part of that.

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Melbourne

It’s Melbourne. Not Mel-born or Mel-bournee or any other butchering of the name of the capital of Victoria. Here’s some audio to support this:

Pretty simple right? Eh, not so much. I still here people mispronounce the name and maybe that’s because they’ve never been there or they just don’t know any better. Hey, I once watched a ‘Wheel of Fortune’ puzzle where the category was ‘On The Map’ and the last two words were ‘New Zealand’ and they had a few of the letters up top to let you know the answer was ‘Auckland’ – hell, it even got down to missing the ‘U’ and still the dummies couldn’t guess it…. You wanna know what happened next? I’ll show you:

“I still haven’t heard of it.”…….gahhh. Anyway, enough of  tangent, back to Melbourne.

Many consider Melbourne to be the cultural centre of Australia and I may or may not agree. I did not spend a whole lot of time there (actually only a day) but it’s certainly nothing like Sydney or Brisbane. Melbourne is home to the Australian Open held every January and if you didn’t know, it’s part of the tennis Grand Slam which also includes the US Open, the French Open and The Championships Wimbledon. But it, like Sydney and Brisbane, have museums and theatres but for some reason many label Melbourne the cultural centre. Maybe it’s because they hosted the Olympics back in 1956 and that was the first time the games had come to the Southern Hemisphere and it was also the first time they were held outside of Europe and North America. So maybe, just maybe, it all stems from that but I won’t comment any further because I’d rather not tick off the friends I have in Brisbane, Sydney, Perth or wherever else they might be around Australia.

Here’s a taste of what I saw, which was mainly exteriors because I was just walking around the city taking in various sights.

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Into the Southern Hemisphere

As I stood in the line for Qantas (keep in mind this was 2007, so I remember the gist of everything but not certain details) , I remember thinking “this is going to be a very long flight”. Certainly the longest flight I had ever been on up to that point in my life. Up until that roughly 15-hour flight the longest flight I had ever been on was an 8-hour ride to Spain in the Summer of 2004, it was also the only other time I had left the United States and here I was about to venture off to the other side of the world, literally, and be the farthest away from home I had ever been. Luckily, the flights to Australia generally take off at midnight from Los Angeles which can allow an easier transition to the time change because by the time you land you’ve lost two days. I remember trying to stay awake as long as I could then just passing out and, when I woke up, watching some movies and TV shows until we landed.

Now being a California guy I enjoy wearing shorts year round but the cold doesn’t get to me like most Californians. When it dips below 60 I see people bring out their scarves and mittens and beanies. I just wear my shorts, a sweatshirt and most likely sandals. This happens other places I go too. If I can wear shorts, I will. The cold doesn’t really bother me. I bring this up because I left the USA in July and this being the Southern Hemisphere, it was winter so it was cooler/cold but not to the point where I needed to layer up. It was a bit of a shock stepping out onto the cool street and knowing that it was July but I acclimated quickly.

I should note that one of my companions, who turned out to be one my good friends on this trip – I called him “T” on account of our affinity for the movie Men In Black, lost his luggage – rather the airline lost his luggage and sent it to Tahiti or someplace so he was stuck wearing the same clothes for what I think amounted to a week and a half, maybe two weeks. He had a good sense of humour about it and, still, seven years later I still bring it up and laugh about it. He literally washed his socks, boxers, and shirt every night in the sink with soap & water. It also taught me to always travel with a spare change of socks, shirt and boxers in my carry-on. So for that T, I thank you.

To help all of us newcomers to the country get acclimated to the time change we stayed out in the small beach resort town of Sorrento which is about and hour and a half south of Melbourne. Why did we stay out here? I have no idea, but I was not going to complain given the scenery. One of the first things I remember doing after putting down my bags was heading down to the beach and exploring the area.

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After exploring the coast for a bit and examining the tide pools and watching the crashing waves for a while I believe it was time to head back and partake in the boring part of why we were all there: orientation. What a great way to end the day huh? Sitting down… hearing about acceptable behaviour, social customs, pronunciation of words and things of a similar nature being discussed in great detail…Oh, and advice/guidelines for us so that we would not end up in jail or worse, deported. Don’t worry, that didn’t happen. It was boring and informative, but it sure put me in the mood to sleep, that’s for sure. It made for an easy transition into Australian life.

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Living Down Under

Back in 2007 I decided that I needed to expand my horizons and I wanted to travel and study abroad. My heart ultimately settled on the continent/country of Australia. While most of my friends ventured off to Europe with Spain & England & Italy being top destinations, I decided that I wanted to go someplace that was a bit more out of the way but would also be an excellent experience for me. I figured that if I landed anywhere in Europe I could get to other countries in Europe relatively easily by way of a plane, a car or a train.

Australia is not like that.

Australia is an island. A big damn island. A big damn island SO BIG that it was once used as a prison! Why wouldn’t I want to go there?!

The stories that will follow will be my first-hand accounts of what I experienced, felt, and learned from my six month stay Down Under, which also (spoilers!) included a side trip to New Zealand. I aim to provide you with the sights and sounds of each city, beach or town that I visited during my stay and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did! Stay tuned!

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