We’ve officially started the ocean portion of our trip and it will probably continue for a long time. As we go further north, the weather is getting hotter and the beaches are getting even more beautiful. Since we left Sydney, we’ve taken the Greyhound bus north, making stops in the towns of New Castle, Coffs Harbour and Byron Bay. New Castle and Coffs Harbour were both nice, but nothing spectacular. The highlight was seeing humpback whales. They’re migrating south now and we saw them while we were hiking up a hill in Coffs Harbour. I had never seen a whale before. We first noticed them breathing, shooting air and water up. Then we saw a few of them jumping up and splashing. I’m not quite sure why they do that, but it was pretty cool to see. We were far away from them, of course, but I think we had a better view than the whale watching tour boats. From where we were sitting, we could see both the whales surfacing and the boats racing across the ocean to them. It was kind of funny.
Byron Bay was incredible and we had a great time there. First we walked up to the lighthouse, which had really nice views and an interesting history, then we swam in the ocean and slept on the beach. I’m not sure how long we slept for, but the tide must have been rising quickly, because by the time we woke up the waves were all the way up to our feet! That night our hostel (which was really nice, it had a pool and hammocks and everything, it seemed like a resort for us) was having pizza night, so we ate pizza for dinner and after that we went to a bar to watch the Rugby World Cup Final. New Zealand won, which is good, we were rooting for them. Then there was a blues band playing at the bar, so we stayed and listened to them. When the band finished, we walked down to the beach, which was totally dark except for the rotating light from the lighthouse and tons of stars in the sky. We just sat there, listening to the waves and watching the lighthouse. It was very beautiful and peaceful.
After that we went to Brisbane for a couple of days. Brisbane’s population is about 1.5 million and it seemed even more gigantic compared to the tiny beach towns we had been in. The city was nice, but the best part was our first home stay. Before we left for our trip, my mom put me in touch with Carrie, a childhood friend of hers living in Brisbane, who invited us to stay with her family. Sleeping in a house and eating delicious, home-cooked meals again was incredible! Carrie, Mark, Alex and Oliver were all very welcoming and friendly, too, and they gave us good advice for our remaining time in Australia. I’m so happy we were able to stay there!
For Brad’s birthday we went out to North Stradbroke Island, which we heard about through Carrie. Getting there was a bit of an ordeal-we had to take a train out of town, take a bus to the ferry station, take a ferry across to the island and then take a bus to our hostel-but it was really beautiful. We walked along the beaches, took a lot of pictures and ate gelato. Our plan was to watch the sun set at the beach, but all the sudden the weather got kind of nasty. For dinner we went to an Italian restaurant that was having an all-you-can-eat pasta and pizza buffet, perfect for Brad.
After that, we went up to Noosa, where the rain kind of ruined our beach day. We took an overnight bus up to Airlie Beach and we’re planning on going out to the Whitsunday Islands on Tuesday. I wanted to go tomorrow, but the tour is all booked up. We might miss the Melbourne Cup, the big horse race here, but I think seeing Whitehaven Beach will be worth it. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it doesn’t rain that day!