Good bye to the RV lifestyle
Since arriving in Australia I have made it a mission to hold a koala bear. Truthfully it's been a childhood dream to be that close to one of those adorably small grey bears. Now that we have arrived in the state of Queensland this was going to become a reality!
The last sanctuary we visited was closer to Melbourne in Victoria state where it's illegal to handle koala bears. The sanctuary itself was great but obviously there was no holding or even touching koalas.
We also paid $12 to have a 10 minute encounter with kangaroos which was incredible but it was over in the blink of an eye! I knew the search wasn't over for finding a place where I could hold koala. I looked into a Australian zoo, home of the crocodile hunter, Steve Erwin. It's the zoo he either created or worked out of, I'm not sure but the prices were outrageous! One regular adult ticket was around $54!
I kept looking...
The Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane had been recommended to me by several and it was fairly touristy; attracting famous people like Taylor Swift, John Travolta and family, matchbox 20 and so on.
I had no idea until arrival that you could also walk amongst kangaroos and emus for free and for $2 you could purchase food to feed the kangaroos. There was a student rate at this sanctuary just like the last one so I got in for something like $24 and then I paid $16 for my photo to be taken with the koala.
You can hold the koala for free but if you want any photos taken with it, you pay $16 for a professional and then you are also allowed to take personal pictures with your own camera. You ARE NOT able to take personal photos unless you are buying the $I6 photo. This was okay with me because the money all goes back into helping the koalas and their habitats.
We didn't spend all day at Lone Pine as we had at the last sanctuary. Mostly because the weather was a bit more humid and it was sprinkling off and on. But we spent a lot of time with the kangaroos and koalas.
Once we left, the search for a place to park the RV over night was on. Brisbane was much bigger then I had expected, it was a city! Alicia and Mitch wanted to explore the area but by public transportation not RV so we found a residential neighborhood just on the edge of an industrial area. We parked in front of a house so it looked as of we might know someone here.
Ferris wheel in Brisbane.
Mitch and Alicia went out on the town while I stayed back. It was his last night in Australia so I let them do their thing. I explored the area we had parked in and found some wifi to text with my dad and message Sam (from Sydney) regarding picking him up at the airport in the morning. Did I mention in any previous posts that he offered to fly into Brisbane and drive with Alicia and I after dropping Mitchell off?
Well that was the plan.
Waking up to a 6am alarm clock the 3 of us drove to the airport to pick Sam up. We had breakfast together at a nearby tavern and then dropped Mitchell off at the airport.
Then it was time to clock in some miles for our final destination. We had to return the RV in Cairnes, by Friday at 3pm. It was Wednesday morning at this point.
I rode shotgun and Sam drove the majority if the day, I drove for 3 or 4 hours on roads that were straight aways. Flash flood alerts after every song on the radio, Kangaroo road kill and seeing a wallabie at night standing alive but frozen still in the road for on coming traffic... That about sums up day 1 with Sam.
We pulled over at 1am across the street from a truck stop and slept amongst a few semi's and a couple wicked vans (backpacker rental vans) to sleep thru the night.
I don't know if I mentioned this in an earlier post but we opted out of using the toilet in our RV because none of us wanted to clean out the tanks when we were done. So we were all about sleeping near anything that was open 24hrs where we could wake up to a bathroom. Sleeping here, we had no idea they'd have clean and FREE showers to offer us in the morning. Total bonus!
We were just about to drive the RV across the road into the truck stop parking lot when Sam noticed the wicked van. These vans are all very unique. Each one decorated on the outside by a different artist. This one had a life like cardboard person in the back window wearing only animal print underwear. We were laughing at it when we realized that if we really focused on the van, it was actually rockin'! Which made us laugh harder! We drove slowly by its steamy windows and pulled into the truck stop parking lot.
We got our showers in, had breakfast in the trailer, ran out of water in the trailer so we washed our dishes in the bathroom sink of the truck stop bathroom. While Sam and I made breakfast Alicia washed her clothes in the bathroom and hung them in the trailer to dry. It was still very humid out and we were finding ourselves a but sticky even after washing up. Thanks to Alicia's good timing we also had wet clothes to doge in the RV for the next few hours.
Our backpacking neighbors in the wicked van pulled in next to us and were doing about the same as us. Cooking breakfast on camp stoves on the outside of their vans instead if the inside though. As far as I could tell the passengers were German girls no guys. Maybe they were all just changing their clothes at once.
Sam informed us as we headed out on the road again that we were clearly in the land of Bogans (Australian term for backwoods/ trashy people). He could tell by the houses we were passing and the people we could see.
it was still raining but the flash flood warnings had lifted.
For the majority of the drive we saw. nothing but Sugar cane fields... everywhere! Sam wanted to pick me some to try raw even though I was certain I had eaten it in Hawaii. We continued driving as many of the fields were flooded.
While driving I saw a sticker on our window that got a conversation going. I asked Sam how he spells "tires" and he shook his head as if he knew what this conversation held for him. He responded, I know there is 2 different ways to spell it but I don't know which way is the right way." As he said that I was pointing at myself as if to say, the American way is the right way. This NZ and Australia way is crazy! I've never seen it before visiting these countries. I ended up telling him this while we laughed about it. They spell it tires but more often then not you see it spelled "tyres".
We stopped at a grocery store in airlie beach to stock up on snacks for the road. Our shopping experience was like every other but I have to mention it because I found it funny! While the 3 of us were perusing the produce dept. A guy in his 30's was picking out the perfect zucchini when he had a bit of a mishap. Suddenly, just as I looked in his direction, the guard holding the vegetables broke off! It was like something out of a movie as he scrambled to try and catch them. Realizing he couldn't as 100's rolled at him, all tumbling out onto the floor, he gave up. I've never felt my mouth drop open so far in my life! I just stood there shocked and thinking how funny it was at the same time. The guy looked back at us and kinda laughed saying, I didn't do it.
Like a Good Samaritan I laughed with him and then Alicia and I helped him pick it all up.
Once we were officially at the beach
we strolled thru the town and looked out to the whitsunday islands where a cruise ship was anchored. Sam shared his tales of travel out there.
He bought a pair of shorts since he forgot his in Sydney. Only packing jeans for his 4 days with us and again, it was humid as heck out and I felt sorry for him wearing his jeans! Alicia got her wifi fix at McDonald's while Sam and I shopped around. We went back to the RV to cook chicken and veggies up for lunch before hitting the road again.
After only a few miles we pulled over to fill up with petrol. Alicia went across the street to McDonald's (again) for wifi and Sam and I went into a workout supply store so he could find some liquid chalk. I caught a glimpse of dumb bells and off I went to get some bicep curls in, wearing my sun dress! The way every lady should dress when lifting weights.
Sam saw me, finding it a bit funny he said, "ahh come on, really?"
"Yep!" I replied, laughing.
It's hard to workout when your traveling like this! I failed to mention this in a past post but I got a full workout day in during my Sydney stay and LOVED it!
Alicia and I did a 5 mile run in the morning along the beach walk and then Sam picked me up and took me to his gym to lift weights with him. He had to train a guy after me so I just stayed and worked out on my own until he was done. That was a great day, for a gym nerd like myself. Yeah, perhaps it's a bit sad that I enjoyed a full day of working out while in Australia but I was happy.
Back to my current story:
on the road again, leaving Airlie beach we missed our turn off and ended up on a dirt road surrounded by sugar cane. Sam decided to be a little "Bogan" like, as he left the drivers seat of the RV to wade out in the ankle deep mud (from the flash flooding) and break off sugar cane for us. Yum!
We drove for several hours into the night looking for a good place to stop and make dinner. Guess where we ended up... Yep! a McDonald's parking lot, AGAIN! They are in every town and the free wifi is the bonus. So while I cooked dinner Alicia went in to use wifi and Sam walked around outside talking on the phone. I made Kangaroo steak, crunchy salad, and pumpkin soup with sugar cane for desert! Delicious!
Truck stop #2 with showers was our next destination even though we didn't know how far away or where that would be.
It was about 1am when we found it. This one required a $10 purchase to use their showers and Sam really wanted one so he topped off the RV and took a shower. They were nicer showers then we had that morning. When he returned to the camper we moved it across the street and up the road just a bit. That's where we parked for the night, in between a backpackers rig and a semi that ran its generator all night!
Our back window of the RV leaked a bunch of rain water in while we had been driving. It was right above Sam's bed so I helped him strip the bed and but a dry sheet on it. It was to hot for any more bedding then that. I could hardly sleep it was so stuffy in the trailer, even with the windows all opened. I crawled up into the bunk above the drivers seat and went to sleep next Alicia.
In the morning we made breakfast, drove to a shop to top off the propane tank and I saw my first aborigines people, of Australia. Sam had talked about them before and how for the most part they are all effected by alcohol. That was clear as day to me with each one of them I saw. It's a similar situation to the Native Americans of the states, I'd say.
We headed out of town as today was the day we had to have the RV delivered to Cairnes by 3pm. The drive was scenic, reminding me of parts of Hawaii and when I mentioned that to Sam he said he had just been thinking how it reminded him of parts of South Africa. We saw a surprising roadside attraction that made Sam and I both want to turn around to go back for a photo! Alicia was asleep in the bunk above our front seats but she woke up when we slowed down. It was so random to see this house all alone on the side of the road with this amazing landscaping!
We stopped again just 4k's further down the road for a light lunch of a smoothie and coffees as well as a meat pie that Alicia and I shared.
Meat pies, a smoothie and coffees.
We pulled into Cairnes at 1pm. At this time we learned that Sam hadn't had good experiences with hostels and he was wanting to get a hotel. And he had no problem paying for it or the majority of it.
So we booked two nights at a best western, compliments of Sam and the ironic part was that the room was just as nice as some of the hostels we have stayed at along the way. Sam if course didn't believe that.
We then returned the RV to the company where things got really interesting.
They greeted us at the counter and were very kind. Overall we had 3 people helping us behind the counter and in brief, here is what happened:
We told them we filled the diesel tank and the propane tank up. We confirmed the broken stove too when we were asked about it. The guy smiled, kind of chuckled and said that happens often. So often in fact that they don't replace the glass when it breaks SO WHY DID THEY QUOTE US $200 when we called it in!? We questioned it and so they ended up keeping the $50 they were going to reimburse us with for Diesel instead of charging us $200. We were okay with that. THEN... We mentioned the flat tire and after they checked it out they tried to charge us $400 saying we destroyed the tire beyond repair! We knew that wasn't our fault either. We were also told we should have called it in as soon as it happened and they would have sent someone out to help us. We told them we didn't have wifi when that happened so we couldn't have called. So we argued that one... We argued that with them for just over an hour with several phone calls being made between bosses and managers. Guess who won... Yep! We did! We got so incredibly lucky... Again!
We were so grateful that we took 2 of the people that worked with us out for a beverage and they drove us in their company VW sedan.
I love Australian hospitality.