Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Evanshead, Rum and Queensland

Small town Queensland and New South Wales is very strange. Aside from being absolutely bonkers about footy, though up there this is, of course, Rugby League, it is made up of incredibly small towns where all the inhabitants are very wary of anything remotely strange and foreign. A lot like what I've heard of small town America.

Evanshead and Woodburn was a classic example of this. Arriving in Woodburn I was literally left standing on the only street in the town. There were two bakeries, a pub and a tiny tourist information office. There was one bus to Evanshead a day (11 km away) which I had missed because my Greyhound was late, so after a coffee and a BLT on Focaccia (it's funny what you remember about these trips), I started walking. After what must have been about one and a half kilometres, I was lucky enough to be picked up by a lovely couple who were driving into the town and knew where the Surfshack was. It literally is just a shack. It was, however, one of the best bits of my trip. A week of chilled out body-boarding and even dabbling for a couple of days on a stand up. I enjoyed it so much that I'm looking to buy a malibu (a type of long board) when I get home! There was one pub in Evanshead, with a good restaurant and a couple of Chippies. The people were amazing and I even did some yoga. Absolutely amazing.

After a drive up to Byron Bay with one of the other guys staying there, Ray, I decided that it wasn't the place for me (I had a surf there on the last day, and also went to the eastern most place on the Australian land mass), and so extended my trip by a day. I caught the bus up to Coolangatta at the end of the week, after a chilled out New Year's Eve with John (the owner of the shack), his parents and Alix and Kelly. Good times.

Just a quick word about John Plenkovitch before I move on: he's a big wave surfer and gets up early during cyclone season to go out to reef's about 22 miles offshore and get towed in. Mental.

Another point about Evanshead... I went to Chinaman's beach one day for a surf. It was pretty big and I wish I'd been on my bodyboard, but as it happened I was on a stand up board. What made up for it was the pod of dolphins playing around though. Not only did they catch a wave with me (which I wiped out of!) but they swam so close I could have touched them. Two underneath me and one either side. It was amazing.

So it was up to Cooly and the only hostel in the town! I wish I could have stayed a bit longer here: there was another bodyboarder (from Holland so I knew he was a legend) and a group of awesome American surfers. After an evening surf at Duranbah, a legendary spot on the East Coast (and Mick Fanning and Steph Gilmore's local break), which is actually still in New South Wales (as such you're surfing an hour behind the town you're staying in!), which was ridiculously hard and crowded with some of the best surfers/bodyboarders I have ever seen in my life. It was so good we only got out of the water when we couldn't see anymore.

It was this night I decided to change my trip so I could come home a few days early as I was so tired and weary, and running out of funds!

It was also this night that we checked all the swell and wind directions and found that Kirra, might, just might, be working really early in the morning. Kirra is a famed spot. Famed because you can catch one of the best barrels in the world. But it needs to be just right. As it happened it wasn't. Seeing as we were all up at half six and psyched anyway, we headed back to D'Bah and had one of the best surfs of my life. If only because I could have touched Mick Fanning when he popped up next to me out of the white water. I somehow didn't get barrelled (I think my bottom turn isn't sharp enough) and it was here that I really had my last decent surf of the trip... so my quest continues.

On my last day in Cooly I hung around (and watched the cricket in the pub) waiting for Simon. It had been seven years since I'd seen him last, but I had no problems spotting him: the bloke in uniform was a dead give away!

I had an amazing week in Brisbane: I went to Surfer's Paradise, saw a waterfall and a rain forest and went to Sunset Sounds and saw so many amazing artists. It was awesome!

After a lovely chilled out week, I had about another week to cover about 2,000 kilometres. So I headed up to Noosa in the hope of some more surf, but alas, it was flat. It was awesome though; met some amazing people and had a great time.

The next day I caught a bus up to Bundaberg. The only reason to go up there is for the rum. Or to pick fruit and work. As such it wasn't a great time, but I got by!

I have a horrible feeling I'm repeating myself... but hey. I then caught the overnight bus up to Airlie Beach. This is a backpacker's haven. It's where all the trips leave for the Whitsunday and Fraser Islands and some of the reef trips. But I was out of money and time so just hung out on the beach and read, which was cool.

After a day there it was up to Cairns (on the 12 hour overnight-er) for the last three days of my trip. Cairns is really cool, though unfortunately not physically: I was wet for about three days; it was near enough impossible to get dry. But there were some amazing people and a really chilled hostel with a swimming pool, it's own bar and own "restaurant" that made an awesome bacon sanga! I booked my reef trip, which took the second day in Cairns, on Tusa Dive T5. This was an absolutely amazing experience. I met a really nice South African family and there was free lunch. Even though I "only" went snorkeling it was incredible. I saw Nemo's and Brain coral and eels and all sorts of crazy wildlife and colours. I also saw the effects of coral bleaching and pollution, even at the outer reef. I am so glad I could do this now; in five years the Whitsundays and Fraser Island will still be there, who knows about the reef.

That night was the last night of my trip, and also pool competition night at the pub. So a good time was had by all! Again, I met some amazing people and it was a great finish to possibly the best 37 days of my life.

Once again, a massive thank you to all who helped, sent me positive thoughts over the holidays and to those who have let me go abroad for the year and supported me in what I have wanted to do.

A truly epic trip that I really haven't been able to do justice but I hope this gives people something good to read and makes them want to come to Australia.

I'm going to try and get some photo's up soon. In the meantime, it's time for an Iced Coffee.

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