Most travel…involves depending on the kindness of strangers. – Paul Theroux
One of the best things about traveling is making friends from all over the world, and during our time in Latin America we met heaps of Aussies which turned out to be crucial as we began our one year working holiday visa at the end of November. A few weeks before we flew out our friends Kate and Millie, who we met in Guatemala, emailed to inform us that they had settled into a house in Brisbane with a spare room for us to crash in and were ready to pick us up from the airport when we arrived. This is one of the things I love about Aussies – they mean what they say. We never had to send that awkward email “Remember when you said…”
The same day we heard from the girls, we also heard back from our future boss that our jobs were confirmed on a farm in Amiens. It was a huge weight lifted off to know that we would be spared the expenses of cab rides and hostels in Brisbane and would have four days to get our feet on the ground before starting work. There were a few things we needed to accomplish before heading out for the farm such as getting a local bank account and setting up online banking, getting a sim card for our phone, calling home on Thanksgiving, laundry, etc. We had a plan, but we did not anticipate the obstacles that would arise or the adventures that would ensue.
Kate and Millie came through as planned and it was nice to have our own room to recover from the jet lag in. The weather was great on the first day and while the girls worked Jordan and I took their bikes down to the river front to explore the museums and manmade beach. Being in an English speaking city for the first time in seven months was a trip. I had to make a conscious effort to say “thank you” instead of “gracias” and “hello” instead of “hola,” and throw the toilet paper into the toilet rather than the bin. I relished not having to pay to use public restrooms and the fact that they were equipped with hand soap and paper towels! We didn’t even have to pay to get into the museums! I had a strange sense of relief being in Australia that I can’t really explain.
We didn’t expect to see much outside of Brisbane because the girls both work, but they were great hosts and we squeezed a lot into four days. On Thanksgiving we drove up to the Sunshine Coast and spent the day in Caloundra swimming in the crystal clear blue water and lounging on the white sand beach. We missed out on the turkey and stuffing this year, but we feasted on fish and chips at the beach.
Jordan and I took the train back to Brisbane taking in sights of the Glass House Mountains along the way. We transferred in the city and when we came out of the terminal it was as if we had entered a totally different world.
Within minutes rain turned to hail the size of golf balls and the wind was torrential. We ended up being stuck on the train for more than an hour while the wind and hail pelted us from all directions. Apparently we were lucky because other trains had the windows blown out exposing passengers to the storm.
We were finally let off of the train which was precariously stopped just before crossing over the river and thankfully we knew where we were at. While walking back to the girls’ house we saw major hail damage to vehicles, flooding and tree branches strewn across the streets and sidewalks. Emergency alarms and ambulance sirens were sounding off and power was out in many parts of the city. It felt apocalyptic and I was reminded of the time I got stuck in Brooklyn to experience Hurricane Sandy in all her glory.
When we finally made it back to the house we found the beautiful gum tree in the front yard was blocking the road and it had pulled the power lines down on the way. Luckily only one window in the house shattered, but there was one window in the kitchen open throughout the entire storm which caused leaves and even tea bags to stick to the parallel wall. Despite not having power, it was easy to find the humor in seeing tea bags stuck to the wall.
In comparison to the U.S., Australia lacks the abundance of access to public Wi-Fi which posed a problem for us the following morning because it was Thanksgiving at home and though we had regained power, the Wi-Fi wasn’t turning back on. We ended up finding a Turkish restaurant with Wi-Fi for customers, so we opted for the cheapest things on the menu a $4 Pepsi and a $4 piece of Turkish Delight (!!!) and were able to contact our families. The power outages and lack of internet also posed problems with the banking situation but we were able to get the account set up and leave it at that.
That day was also Millie’s birthday and we had planned to spend that evening with her at Woodford where she was working, so we left our worries behind in Brisbane and set out with Kate on another tour of the Sunshine Coast including the town they grew up in, Maleny, and culminating at the Woodford Folk Festival grounds where we got to see behind the scenes all the effort that goes into the week long folk festival. It was impressive!
Jordan and I are planning to volunteer at the festival which will include being involved in some of the performances and carrying around fire torches. In exchange we get free camping and tickets, which will be saving us around $700 each. It should be an epic experience!
On our way back to Brissie the next day we stopped in Coolum another beach town on the Sunshine Coast for some sun and sushi. This is one of my new favorite things about Australia and was totally unexpected. Some of the cheapest food you can buy are sushi rolls and this seems to be the case everywhere – coastal towns and in the city. They aren’t anything fancy, but $2 for a salmon and avocado roll is pretty cheap in my opinion!
That night, as we packed our bags and readied ourselves for the next phase of our adventure in Oz. I was feeling a bit unprepared to be heading out to the farm but more than anything I was so grateful to have made friends with complete strangers six months prior that then made our first four days in Australia so fun-filled and relaxing, even in spite of the powerful storm and all its effects.