👰🤵🏻 Brad’s Wedding

The main reason I ended up in Australia was a wedding invitation from my cousin. Maybe he was foolish enough to think that I wouldn’t come half way around the world.

My friend Erin agreed to tag along and make a holiday out of it.

About a month before the wedding I got a call from Brad he sounded a little frantic and I kind of thought something bad had happened, but he was calling to ask if I would do a reading at the wedding. I was flattered as we are distant cousins. But a cousin crazy enough to pursue the invitation.

The wedding was about 80 guests and since a lot of people were coming from a ways away Brad had a rehearsal dinner the night before. We got to meet relatives and socialize a bit before the big day.

They had planned to get married on the beach in Noosa, a town where Australians go to vacation to get away from the city. Most accommodations are apartment style and their are heaps of shops, massage and nail salons, and cooking or art classes. The beaches are beautiful and you can go swimming in them. It was a beautiful weekend in Noosa so it was very crowded with people.

After the wedding all the guests went to the beach for pictures. It was quite hot and Erin got a little burned from just the ceremony.

The brides grandparents built a house in the area and this is where the reception was. It was also nice that it was only a 5 minute walk.

Flying from Townsville to Brisbane

Looking at the maps of Townsville without elevation you don’t realize how high Church hill is. Our Airbnb host assured me it was only a 30 minute hike up but looks a lot more menacing from the ground.

The mountain was graffitied in the 80’s by drunk college students. It is a stick figure saint and since the years past the city still maintains it as it became a popular landmark.

After reaching the top an older guy by the name of Angus stopped me and asking if I was from out of town. He lives in Townsville and stated he enjoyed meeting people from all around the world hiking this almost every day. He pointed out one guy who was 82 and hikes every day….they had just done a piece about him in the local paper. Angus had a pretty interesting story. Being bored by school he dropped out and found work as a cowboy in his teenage years. He told me about how sparse water was and often his mouth was so dry he could barely roll his cigarettes.

We left for the airport after my hike and flew to Brisbane. It was my time to drive and I was a bit nervous. When we got to the rental car place they gave me the keys and listed off the parking spot. In front of me was not a car but a boat. I couldn’t believe I would be stuck with a car this big my first time driving. When I went back to the rental desk they admitted to giving me a larger car than I needed instead giving me a Swift. Ironic because it had been labeled Taylor Swift and I was headed to a wedding where the bride and groom had met at a Taylor Swift concert. This was the rental car that was meant to be.

We got to the hotel which was much more like an apartment. It was large with two bedrooms…way more space than what we were used to. We headed to The rehearsal dinner to meet guests and have dinner.

Australia Zoo

This is definitely a do not miss if you travel to this area of Australia. I wouldn’t normally put a zoo on my travel list, but with this being the crocodile hunter, Steve Irwin’s, zoo I thought I had to at least check it out.

We were lucky enough to book tickets on a Monday. I’m not sure how crowded the zoo normally gets, but there was the perfect amount of people. It didn’t feel overcrowded like it can sometimes. We were able to buy our tickets ahead of time with the Glass House Mountain Eco Lodge to avoid having to wait in line.

It’s a good idea to get a map of the park either through the app or when you walk through the gate. The first thing to do is head over to the kangaroos. kangaroos naturally eat at dawn and dusk as it is hot midday and perfect for hiding in the shade. Their food can be purchased at any of the gift shops along the way.

Another do not miss is the croc show at noon. Almost all of the restaurants are located near the “crocoseum” so I would get there around 11:15 buy your food and look for a spot. The stands did not fill up that day but if you want shade then you might have to come early.

The Lemurs apparently nap from 11-2 but we caught the zoo keepers giving a snack to one and administering meds. They were really friendly and spewing facts to us about them. It was like having a private tour.

the zoo is really built around the animals and offering the best views for guests but not at any expense to them. During the shows the animals are only trained to do things they would in the wild or to administer meds or do health checks.

Dinner that night was at the Beerwah Hotel. Reminded me of a supper club back home. Nothing spectacular, but a good meal.

Magnetic Island

The sun rose again on another beautiful day in Queensland. We headed out somewhat early to catch a ferry to magnetic island.

I was very excited to see wild koalas and drive around in a little topless/Barbie car.

To my surprise the horn didn’t work, but we wouldn’t be driving far and it was more like a go cart then anything else.

We headed to the Forts walk as this is where we believed we could see wild koalas. It was quite hot for us and Erin decided not to go all the way to the top of the trail. But I was determined to see a koala and people hiking down had confirmed that they saw one. I headed up and got to the forts but no koala in sight. Just as I was about to give up I saw people with their phones out.

Koala

It would be so easy to miss these guys they blend in well and do not move.

The shopping is mediocre on the island. Really the hiking and beach are the main attractions.

It was lunch time and very hot from the hike. We grabbed lunch and decided to relax near the beach until 4:30pm when the rock wallaby’s come out and you can feed them carrots. They seemed to really like bananas as well. They were pretty timid but if you wait you can catch them.

Rock wallaby

After a full day and tired feet we jumped in our topless car only to realize we left the light on and the battery was dead and we had no one to call!

It was tricky but we managed to find a local to help us get back to the ferry. The jumper cables didn’t work and we even tried a push start, but we ended up having to abandon the car. I was grateful it could have been a lot worse.

To Townsville

We woke up from our little airbnb in Cardwell and found the dryer we had been looking for in the dark.

Driving on the Brice highway is pretty easy going. We stopped for road side bananas

And for ice cream.

Australia is know for it’s fiberglass road side statues so I’m glad we go to see a couple. The frosty mango has an orchard in the back with all of its fruit it uses. So many fruits to chose from; a lot I’ve never heard of.

We finally got to Townsville. We didn’t plan for much besides find our Airbnb and find a hat for Erin to wear.

The view from the Airbnb was amazing. It’s a lot of stairs to get up to the top but totally worth it.

The shops close early usually in Australia so we headed back to our Airbnb before getting dinner.

Tomorrow we would head out to magnetic island or Maggie as the locals call it.

Wallaman Falls

We left Cairns headed south for about 2 hours. It was the first time we would be trying out driving on the left hand side!

We stopped as we got it Cardwell at the Vivia cafe for lunch with crab sandwich. Very fresh and very delicious. Erin had an eggplant sandwich that she also enjoyed.

We then headed to the park up the long windy hairpin turns to the top to see the falls.

Wallaman Falls unfortunately was dried up

we hiked the short path but the heat and the elevation made it quite difficult.

Airbnb had a family emergency left us to our own devices with out cell phone signal or WiFi and no owner on site. We couldn’t find the clothes drying rack that was supposed to be in the shed out back in the dark. Not something I felt comfortable digging around in in the dry season with.

Cardwell was very remote, but a good place to lay low.

Jungle Surfing – Zip Lining

The Daintree Rainforest is a region located on the north east coast of Queensland, Australia, north of Mossman and Cairns. At around 1,200 square kilometres (460 sq mi), the Daintree is a part of the largest continuous area of tropical rainforest on the Australian continent. The Daintree Rainforest is a part of the Wet Tropics Rainforest, that spans across the Cairns Region. The Wet Tropics Rainforest (that the Daintree is a part of) is the oldest continually surviving tropical rainforest in the world. Along the coastline north of the Daintree River, tropical forest grows right down to the edge of the sea.
Only 0.2% of Australia is rainforest so this is one of the only places to see rainforest on the whole continent.
Tropic wings does a tour that includes a stop to a wildlife habitat in Port Douglas, lunch, a zip lining tour and a crocodile boat tour. Our guide James was full of energy and had an enthusiasm for what he did. He was very hopeful we would see a Cassowary on our tour but these birds are very rare they are almost extinct with a population of 1,500 in Australia.
We fed some wallaby’s at the wildlife habitat. Then headed to lunch in the rainforest.
Zip lining was after lunch. The state of Queensland is sometimes called the “nanny state” as they put warning signs on almost anything. Although my first experience with zip lining it seemed that there were a lot of precautions taken to ensure safety. The zip line followed down the through the canopy of the rainforest. As interesting as zip lining seems it is not something I would find myself doing again.
Since we made good time our guide James promised us ice cream from an exotic fruit ice cream place. We were lucky enough even to see a Cassowary even on our way home.
We didn’t arrive back in cairns until 7pm so it was time to grab dinner. We got a recommendation to try Bombay Kitchen. I had the kangaroo curry, mainly to try kangaroo for the first time. The food was great.

Skyrail

Today was a low key day nothing planned in order to allow us time to adjust . We stayed at the 201Lake St apartments, which are decent accommodations. They have a front desk staff that was super helpful in helping us find options on what we could do for theyday. Based on amount of energy and willingness to spend money.

We decided to make a day out of the sky rail and the Kuranda rain forest park.

The famous Cairns Birdwing Butterfly

The swimming pool since you can’t really swim at the beach in the city

Hemingway’s

Almost completely half way around the world

There is this Map where you can see exactly where you would be if you dug a hole straight through the earth. It is kind of depressing because you end up in the ocean more often than not.

My trip to Australia would be close to the furthest I could possibly be from home. Not actually because that is in the middle of an ocean.

I literally started out from the tiny (and clean!) airport in Madison. I have a travel companion this time, my dear friend Erin. Who is really experiencing international travel for the first time. A travel virgin! It is a lot of responsibility. Half of my travel advice is logical and well thought out half is off the cuff and weird. For example, my tradition of going to the duty free and loading up on a free sample of J’dore Doir before a long flight. I shared this ritual with Erin, who shrugged and was not nearly as impressed with how wonderful the perfume smells. (This is actually not a ritual in vain; have you ever smelled a flight full of passengers 11 hours in? It’s not something you make a candle scent out of. so next time take a light spray of something in the duty free just enough to cover your funk).

Traveling to Australia is the definition of a long haul. We would spend the next 24 plus hours sitting next to each other on various planes, trams, buses, Uber’s, etc.

24 hours before our flight Delta sent an update that because of the wildfires in California we could experience delays. Los Angeles is pretty much the only city we could fly out of to reach Australia with Delta. So with no decisions to make really we prepared for delays at airports and the fact our trip could possibly be longer than the already longness of it. Travel advice that makes sense…don’t freak out about what you can’t control just prepare for the worst and work with what you’ve got.

I downloaded the LoungeBuddy app which lets you buy temporary access to airport lounges. Hoping I wouldn’t have to use it.

Naturally you come across a lot of strangers when you travel. People you will absolutely never see again. The beginning of this trip this was the oddly the case. I say oddly because I don’t think of myself as extroverted so I’m not usually trying to make a conversation. I met a vegetable farmer from Washington state who lives off the grid and who is traveling over winter to Peru to visit a friend in Peace Corp and hoping to try Ayahuasca for the first time; an Australian man who travels for work and fell in love with the city of Washington DC this last trip, a dairy farmer, Mack, and his wife of 47 years (still madly in love) from Macksville, Australia who were just in Canada visiting other dairy farmers to learn from them; a hopeful 21 year old girl who was going to backpack in Cairns for a year because she didn’t want to work in the coal mine in her small hometown just yet…she wanted to experience the world and see a palm trees for the first time; a mom who uses her Delta credit card religiously so she can afford a trip every year to visit her daughter in New Castle (outside Sydney) once a year.

When I started training for triathlon you often hear people say “remember your why”. Which, when my tri got cancelled and I scraped up my bike and my knees in a silly crash, was difficult to understand what my why was exactly. It would have been easy to quit and it felt rewarding to finish, but I didn’t have some grand purpose for doing it.

While I was traveling to the other side of the world I learned a lot of strangers why they travel stories. They are all inspiring in a way and reminded me of why one travels this earth in a smelly cramped airplane for 15 hours with strangers who skipped a visit to the duty free store. And although I will never cross paths again with these people their stories will live on for awhile in my head. And that makes it worth it to keep an open ear for that stranger sitting across from you.

People always tell you “take a lot of pictures” when you leave for a trip. It’s kind advice, but taking pictures actually hinders your travel experience, because you don’t live in the moment. I appreciate the sentiment that is behind those words, but my advice would be keep an open ear.

Phuket Day 5 – 4 waters

I skipped yoga this morning to deal with showering and applying layers of aloe and sun block. It was an early start and a long day.

Our guide was Nuya who is a lovely strong and smart Thai woman that loves to keep us fed. She stopped at a road side for us to get fried bananas. The bananas are already quite amazing in Thailand then you fry them with breading and sesame seeds and they are out of this world.

We would go kayaking first in mangroves.

It was lovely, but even the slightest of activities will make you sweat in Phuket. Glad swimming was an option later.

As we left the kayaks behind our guide started clapping her hands and saying to us monkeys. To my surprise we were soon surrounded by a bunch eager for our peanuts. I assume this is as bad as feeding pigeons in the park, but it was kind of hard not to enjoy seeing them

We got back in the van and headed to Khao Phra Taeo national park to check out a waterfall.

The hiking was amazing. I was glad to be able to check out some of the rainforest on foot and our guide walked slowly and carried a big stick to keep the snakes away…lol.