Chapter 18: Christmas with naked people in Noosa.

Trip Start Oct 01, 2003
Trip End Nov 2004

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Saturday, December 27, 2003

People aren't exaggerating when they talk about how many things there are in Australia that can kill you. From the jellyfish and the sharks to the snakes and the spiders, it certainly pays to be aware of your surroundings. I'm not sure if it was international news or not, but a few days ago a crocodile killed a 22 year old guy in a national park near Darwin in the Northern Territory. Not only that, but the croc then chased the guy's 2 friends up a tree... where they huddled for 20 hours while the reptile sat around watching them!

Luckily I haven't had any similar experiences, although - and I can't believe I forgot to mention this in my last entry - while I was walking the Cape Byron lighthouse track I may have witnessed a snakebite. It was hard to figure out what happened. There were 4 Japanese tourists walking 100 meters in front of me, and suddenly one of the girls in the group started freaking out, jumping & stomping around, and screaming. When I finally reached them a small crowd had gathered, and one of the guys was holding another man's foot and squeezing blood out of two pin-prick-sized wounds. If it wasn't a snakebite, I have no idea what it could have been!

By Monday I started to run out of things to do in Byron Bay that didn't involve spending lots of money, so it was a laundry/pool/e-mail kind of day. On Tuesday morning I jumped on the Oz Exp bus again with a new driver (Tugger) and kept pushing north. Our first stop in the morning was the New South Wales / Queensland border at the twin towns of Twin Heads and Coolangatta. There we had to set our clocks back an hour due to the random timezone change, and we got to watch surfers try to catch some waves at Danger Point. Next up was Surfer's Paradise on the famed Gold Coast. We only stopped for an hour, which was OK, because in all honesty the Gold Coast is pretty identical to the Florida coast. It's all condos, clothes shops, and an unlikely mix of hot people, old people, and tourists.

We took a pit stop in Brisbane in the late morning, and I felt a slight pang of regret that I wasn't spending time there. It looked beautiful, clean, and modern. Just north of Brisbane we spent 2 hours at Steve Irwin's ("The Crocodile Hunter's") Australian Zoo. Steve was supposedly on site for the holidays, but thankfully I didn't run into him. The displays were well done and the animals looked like they were happy enough. I spent the majority of my time in the snake room admiring and taking photos of Taipans, Tiger Snakes, Brown Snakes and their friends. I still had time to go pet the koalas, which are just as cute live as they are stuffed, and walk through "Kangaroo Heaven," which is a big enclosure where kangaroos lounge around in the shade and let people poke them. My favorite 'roo looked beat. She was lying against a fence under a tree with her joey's legs sticking awkwardly out of her pouch. I was generally impressed with the place until I hit the gift shop on the way out. I was hoping they'd have interesting books or maybe some quality souvenir-type items I could send home as gifts, but instead the entire shop was filled with appalling Crocodile Hunter merchandise. Was an 18-inch poseable talking Terri Irwin action figure doll really on any kid's X-mas list this year?! Crikey!

Mooloolaba was our stop that night, and it was a pleasant enough beach town. Still felt kind of like Florida, though. I wandered along the boardwalk and bought "The Snow Garden" by Christopher Rice (Anne's son) as a Christmas present to myself. At 7:30am on Christmas Eve the bus left Mooloolaba and dropped me off one hour later at Noosa, which is a lovely quiet resort town on the coast around Noosa National Park. Actually, "Noosa" is a collection of little towns - Noosa Heads, Noosa Junction, and Sunshine Beach. My hostel (Dolphins) was in Sunshine Beach, which I thought was the kind of name they only gave to fictional places in Nintendo games or cheesy Australian teen soap operas. It was a half hour walk from the Heads to the Junction, and another half hour to Sunshine Beach, so I was thankful that Dolphins sent a shuttle to pick me up.

After I dropped off my bags I spent the afternoon walking from town to town in the hot sun, and I stopped at a travel desk to book a Whitsunday Islands sailing/diving trip for myself and Tom for the 3rd & 4th of January. The rest of the day was uneventful, as everything was quiet for Christmas. It was strange being in such a hot climate for the holiday, especially because there were almost no decorations around at all. Actually it was kind of refreshing after the Christmas overkill back home every year, and it helped to ward off any feelings of homesickness I might have had.

Christmas day I walked to the junction in the morning, got a takeaway lunch at the only open eatery (Subway), and trekked off to Noosa National Park. The park is small, and it mostly consists of dramatic coastline, beautiful beaches, and stately forests with well-marked hiking trails. After 2 kilometers of hiking through the woods I arrived at the curved beach of Alexandria Bay. It was a great view, and there weren't many people around, so the first thing I did was get out my camera and take a few photos of the scenery. It wasn't until after I put the camera down that I noticed something peculiar: most of the people had no clothes on! I'm just as open-minded as the next guy, but the last thing I expected on a Christmas Day hike through a National Park was to find a bunch of naked sunbathers! I tried to imagine a similar scene in Colonial National Historical Park (VA), but for some reason it didn't work. I was embarassed at first, because I had just been taking pictures, and I still had clothes on, but no one seemed to care so I sat myself down and ate lunch.

I continued hiking around for a few hours until I ran into Nick, a young Italian guy staying at Dolphins. We walked back to town together, and had a big expensive (by backpacker standards) dinner at a Chinese place at the Junction. I had a seafood platter which was quite delicious, and afterwards Nick and I sat around Dolphins watching "National Lampoon's European Vacation" (1985) on TV. Apparently Australian TV station "Holiday Movie Presentation" budgets are lacking.

The dinner might have tasted great, but something about it didn't agree with me, because I was awake at 4am this morning hurling up recycled seafood. I couldn't get to sleep again, so I was rather groggy on the 7am hour-long hike (with my full pack) back to the bus stop at Noosa Heads. My new driver was a big lady named "Foggie" (huh?) who had a weird habit of repeating words randomly while speaking-speaking-speaking. The bus was decked out to hell in X-mas crap, which was ironic since I had seen so little of that up through the holiday itself.

Most of the bus got off one hour later at Hervey Bay, which has about 40,000 residents and is the jumping-off point for the majority of trips to Fraser Island. I checked in to Palace Backpackers, and dropped my bags off in the hottest hostel room I'd encountered yet! The place was nice apart from the fact that the three of us in the room felt like we were basting in our own juices, so we retired to the pool for a few hours. The nice Israeli guy from my room joined me on a half-hour walk to the movie theater to go see "Return of the King," but it was sold out. Looking back a few hours that should have been obvious because A) it's Boxing Day, and B) it's opening night here. Oh well.

Tomorrow I'm off to Fraser Island on a two-day trip, so I'm sure I'll have fun stories to report when I get back! Later,

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