Friday, August 22, 2008

Byron Bay

I just finished my last long Aussie bus ride (about 12 hours) from Byron Bay back to Sydney. Although Byron was very nice, it was pretty uneventful and very....unique. On my first day in Byron I met up with Paul, a mate from the UK that I've been travelling on and off with for a stroll around the city. One of the largest attractions of Byron is the famous lighthouse that is located on the most easterly point of Australia, so we made sure to spend ample time walking around that area and looking at the massive amount of dolphins that were in the bay for the day. That night we headed out to the Aussie famous Cheeky Monkeys for some booze and cheap food. Cheeky Monkeys is the best pub in Australia, packed with tons of backpackers looking to drink for cheap, dance on tables, and meet people. What an awesome place it was. The next day I went to the travel agent to book my skydive and an alternative tour to a place nearby called Nimbin, the 'out-there' capital of Australia. Unfortunately, however, I didn't get to go on the tour as my skydive was cancelled on the first day and rescheduled for the next, but oh well. Byron was out there enough for me. While eating lunch one day I saw a man walking a llama down the street like it was a dog and when I asked the wait staff if it was normal they said indifferently, "oh that, yeah happens all the time". But by far the best part of my trip to Byron, and maybe Oz thus far, was my skydive from 14,000ft. After we landed I was told that technically we shouldn't have done the jump because of the weather but it was well worth it. When we first jumped out we were right in the middle of a cloud and then BOOM you could see for miles. It was an unbelievable experience that everyone should do. Other than that my time at Byron was very relaxing with sitting on the beach and wondering about town until party time at Cheeky's.

I'm now in Sydney waiting to fly back to the state on Monday. By the end of the day I will have all my pictures from the trip uploaded with comments on picasa so be sure to check them out at : . And since I liked Meara's final thoughts and top five approach I'll try and do the same after I land back in the states.

And yes Lloyd, I wore the mankini out in Byron...

Monday, August 18, 2008

Airlie/Whitsunday Islands/Brisbane

The past five days have probably been the best days/nights of my trip thus far. The first night I arrived in Airlie beach I met up with a group of random people that had just been sailing and scored some of their free food and booze that you get with every trip. Other than that I don't really remember much of the night other than I know that I was a dancing fool dropping funk kicks all over town. I was out for way too long and had to wake up extra early to start the sailing trip, jagerbombs were a bad choice! The sailing trip was the best thing that I've done since I've been in Oz and pretty much one of the best things I've done my in life.

We set sail about 10am with a pretty large group of 21 passengers and four crew members. Our boat was called Apollo and was apparently one hell of a racing boat back in its time, winning all sorts of local and worldwide races. The crew pretty much made us do most of the hard work like raising the sails and all that jazz which I made sure to do as much as I could. Sailing was nuts as the boat would turn to about a 50 degree angle while we cut through the water beating most of the other boats around us in our starting race. For the next three days that is what we spent a lot of our time doing; just sailing around the amazingly blue/clear colored waters and stopping at the occasional island. One of which was Whitehaven Beach, a top ten beach in the world with the finest sand you can get on Earth, it was 7ks of the nicest beach I've ever seen, including all of the Greek islands. But when we weren't sailing, we were scuba diving or snorkeling which I spent a ton of time doing. It was my first scuba dive which was a little weird but the Great Barrier Reef was one of the best things I've ever seen in my life. I was diving/snorkeling with fish that were larger than I, getting within arms distance of massive sea turtles, and even seeing stingrays. The reef and fish were made up of colors that I can't even begin to explain. It really reminded me of a child's coloring book just filled with seemingly random colors. Nights on the boat were pretty good as we had a fair amount of social people so we would pretty much start drinking while watching the sun set behind the ocean and other passing boats, I won't even try to described these sunsets as my pictures will have to speak for themselves. In fact I'll be done trying to write about the sailing because I just can't describe it in such a short amount of time.

My last night in Airlie beach was once again filled with funk kicks and drinking until I caught my flight to Brisbane. In Brisbane I met up with a Londoner from the boat named Lloyd (lloyd works for the nfl in the UK so that was pretty much what we talked about the entire trip) and we went out with some of guys from London in brizzy. It was a pretty ridiculous night and I'll just leave it at that.

All in all, the past five days have been amazing filled with unbelievable scenery, people, and activities. I'm now in Byron Bay the most easterly point of Oz trying to decide whether I want to try and surf or skydive but will probably end up doing both. I'll be home in less than a week so let's get ready to do some partying out there!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Rainbow Beach & Fraser Island

I just got finished with my 14 hour bus ride from Rainbow Beach to Airlie Beach and am expectantly a little tired so this post will be short and sweet. The first night I arrived at Rainbow Beach, a sleepy little stop-over for backpackers heading to Fraser I was told that my trip had been pushed back a few days and that I would get free accomo at Rainbow for the duration of my stay. Luckily for me, however, it wasn't pushed back too far which would have messed all of my plans up since I'm traveling on a very tight schedule. But since I didn't have to wake up early for a few days on Rainbow I was all ready to party but the problem was there wasn't a party anywhere to be found. David, the French guy from Noosa, and I are pretty much traveling together right now and were pretty bored most of the first day at Rainbow. Luckily that night we found a sport club a few K's away from the hostel and went. This place was straight out of lazer complete with toothless women and crazy rules that we continually broke, like if you wear a hat you must buy the whole bar a round, which we didn't do and got some shit for. But by far the best part of the night was the karaoke that I participated in to a crowd of about ten sober Aussies while I was hammered. The next night we walked with a group of people up to the top of the Rainbow colored cliffs called the Sandblow which was amazing. 200 meters above the beach with a great ocean view on one end and a beautiful view of the setting sun on the other, it hosted probably the second best sunset I've ever seen. But the best part was when you walked on the sand it looked as if your feet were kicking over white paint cans that would splash onto the sand, the colors there were unforgettable. That night David and I slipped into a hostel bar next door where I closed the place down with some randoms until we decided that it would be a good idea to start a fire on the beach, which would've cost us each 1,000 if we were caught but luckily weren't. Other than that, my trip to Rainbow was uneventful during most of the day but fairly lively at night.

The 4x4 trip on Fraser was awesome. We had a very good international mix of people; two French guys, a couple from Barcelona, a Swedish girl, and the standard two Germans (Germans are everywhere in Oz). I was pretty much the appointed leader of the group since I was the only one who knew anything about 4x4 driving and was the only one confident enough to drive the hell outta the thing. By far the best part of the trip was driving the car through the very bumpy, sand jungles and the views from a few hundred meters above the ocean at Indian Head. While there we saw four or five whales out in the distance and fished for massive two meter worms on the beach. The other highlights of the island include the numerous crystal clear freshwater lakes that were freezing cold but I swam in anyway and just talking with all the people on the trip; all in all we got along great and simply could not stop laughing all through the trip. But, on the other hand, while Fraser was amazing and I'm glad that I did it, I was a little disappointed. I had heard that it was one of the best parts of the East Coast but didn't think that it compared with Noosa or the feelings that I got while there, although I did meet more people at Rainbow/Fraser that I'll remember for years to come.

But no worries as I am now very near the Whitsunday Island and leaving on my 3 day sailing trip tomorrow morning at 8:30 and I just decided today that I will be skydiving next week at Byron Bay from 14,000 ft. I will have to wait until I get to Sydney to upload any pictures as it would take too much time sitting here at the cafe so in two weeks time all of the pictures from all these trips will be up. Hope everyone is doing well out there and getting excited to come home to cheap beers and good times (btw I'm paying around 45-50 bucks for a 30 pack here!!!)

Thursday, August 7, 2008


Today is my last day in Noosa, the equivalent of our Florida, complete with all of the geriatrics. I'm waiting on my bus to take me north to a place called Rainbow Beach where I'll stay for a few days before heading to Fraser Island for the safari. Noosa has been unbelievable. My first night here I met some pretty cool guys; 3 Swedish guys who looked like they belonged on the cover of GQ, a Scot and a German. We drank quite a bit at the hostel and then wandered the town trying to find a party somewhere but we were let down when we figured out that we were the party in town.

The next day I met up with my group for the canoe trip. It was a pretty small group, four people, but a very good international mix. It had a German carpenter, a French engineer, and a Swiss bio grad student named Natalie (the poor lone girl on the trip). The trip itself was amazing, winding through the 'Everglade' of Noosa. The lakes and rivers that we traveled on are called the River of Mirrors and it was just that. The red, tea colored water held a perfect picture of the surrounding vegetation; consisting mainly of smooth white trees and small brush. Our canoes would break the serene picture, making it seem as if the mirror sheet of the water was starting to melt, sending waves through the trees and sky. The trees seemed to writhe their way horizontally above the water, twisting in apparent agony before succumbing to their black sugary death. Unfortunately, we did not see much wildlife except for some large lizards, birds, and a massive eel that I was not able to capture. Camping went well for the most part, besides the rain storms on the first night which made the rest of the trip wet and dirty. The group seemed to mend together well and I even learned a new favorite Swiss/German phrase: Hosa Aba! I got back to the Hostel early yesterday afternoon but was way too exhausted to do much of anything so I found a beach and slept there most of the day and took it easy that night chatting with people. I even found a girl who was studying Classics, which if you don't know is a rarity.

Today I woke up early and head to a nearby National Park that was simply stunning. There was beach after beach, very small in size and empty, surrounded by dense forest on one side and a clear, turquoise water on the other. The coastal walks and forest hikes were really spectacular but the feeling that they gave me was remarkable.

It seemed to be a feeling that we are always longing after, futilely lunging forward with both hands to grasp before it scampers away. The feeling that begins in your chest and fills your whole body until you feel that you can not take it any longer. The world seems to stop, your body shuts down, and the only way it escapes is an unstoppable and unexplainable, silent smile. Standing a few hundred meter above the rhythmic waves below, this feeling came over me and I realized that I have been holding this evasive feeling my entire time in Noosa. From the profound silence of the river, to the clarity of the stars above, to that moment on cliffs edge, and it was honestly one of the best feelings in my life. A combination of profound inspiration and love is the best way I can describe it. And from what I've been hearing, the feeling will continue on.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

End of Brisbane, Start of Adventures

Tonight is my last night in Brisbane, which has been an amazing trip even though I didn't do much outside of working, sleeping, and eating. The past week we have been under quite a bit of stress at the winery because of a wedding that was happening on Saturday. But, after a few fourteen hour days of landscaping, vineyard and restaurant work we survived and everything went off without a hitch. In my last post I had said that the work wasn't that hard and until a few days ago it remained as such, doing the tedious work of cutting vines and pulling canes. But once the landscaping needed to be done in the matter of a few days for the weddings things kicked into overdrive. As most of you know I can be a bit lazy at times but, surprisingly, for some reason I welcomed the hard work and constantly found myself taking the harder jobs of shovling/spreading hundreds of square metres of mulch or rolling up over five hundred sq. metres of turf, running it up a hill, unrolling it and then racing back down the hill to do it all over again. But it seems that my hard work and extra effort paid off; Thomas, the winemaker actually offered me a full time job which I declined but was very appreciative. Another great aspect of the winery is the view of the stars away from all the city lights. It is a completely new sky to marvel over and the thick white strip of the Milky Way is truely breathtaking. Overall working at the winery was a great experience and the people I met there, from Thomas and his family, to Daryle the old man of the farm, to the Chefs at the restaurant, provided a side of Australia that most people rarely get to glimpse; and learning about the different wines and beers wasn't too bad either.

But by far Cal and Rosie, J.P.'s aunt and uncle, have made this stay in Brisbane unbelievable; they even named me their honorary nephew and have told me to come back whenever I want, given me food, taken us out, and even given me some clothes for my trip. Even better, Cal and Rosie own a publishing business that has an office in St. Charles, MO. so it could be a possible job hookup! But all three of them, Cal, Rosie, and J.P. are some of the nicest and most beautiful people I've ever met. They're hospitality for a complete stranger like myself is a true testament of goodwill, something I'll always remember and carry with me.

Tomorrow I leave to go to Noosa, the Australian Everglades I believe it is known, for a three day/two night camping/canoe trip up and down a river. I'll be sure to take lots of pictures and will post again the afternoon before I leave to head to my 4x4 self-drive safari around Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world. As for pictures, I'm not sure if I'll have time tonight or early tomorrow morning to post the pictures from around Brisbane and the winery but if I don't I will be sure to post them after Noosa.

Thanks for reading and don't worry, things are about to get a lot more crazy and interesting in the coming adventures.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Howr ya goin Birzzy

Well, I finally made it out of Sydney and am now staying in Brisbane. My last week in Sydney was relatively quiet, doing more odd jobs for Paula's friends and going to the beaches around Sydndey. About 250,000 pilgrims came for World Youth Day, which was surprisingly very interesting. Although I didn't partake in any of the teachings or many group activities, the energy that the entire city possessed during the week was unbelievable. People from all over the world were in the city in a seemingly non-stop celebration of not so much the church but the vast number of cultures represented. It was truely something that I will never forget, especially seeing the 500,000 people that gathered around the harbour line to watch the Pope arrive by boat. I waited and witnessed that happen but by the time it was over, about three, I was ready to have a drink and went to the pub where I met three Irish couples that have been traveling and living in Sydney for some time. We actually took second place in a trivia contest thanks to me for knowing the basics of American history. Other than that things have been pretty usual (except I did eat at an African restaurant which was really different) and I think that I may be lossing my mind reading some Thoreau.

But now I'm in Brisbane with J.P. Patterson, whom I graduated with from Wabash. I'm staying with his aunt and uncle at their place in the country near the city, which I must say definitely rivals Paula's place but without the view. J.P.'s aunt and uncle are mathmatical geniuses both with Ph.D.s and a massive room full or books they've written together over the years, pretty intimidating but they are surprisngly down to Earth and very easy to talk with. Yesterday was my first day at the winery and we just did some pruning work, cutting vines and ripping downs canes. It was not that hard of work but after about eight hours I was ready to be done. The country out here is amazing with mountains and valleys on our way to the winery, which by the way is awesome as well complete with wallybees running around. And once again I witnessed one of the best sunsents that I've even seen on top of a large hill at the winery but unfortunately didn't have my camera but it was made up of the same purples and oranges as the one at Bondi. Today I even saw a koala sitting right near the house when I woke up who even moved around a bit for me between his twenty hour a day slumber. And to get some culture we all went to a Picasso exhibit today which was pretty cool to see Picasso's own art collection alongside some of his works.

All in all, I've got to once again say how lucky I truly have been on this trip. Paula's place and now J.P.'s is simply high class, stunning living and I'm getting a definite experience of a lifetime out here. Tomorrow we're off again at 730 am to go for a long day at the winery but I rest/work easy knowing that these two weeks will be financing my sailing trip around some islands and also my land cruiser adventure on the largest sand island in the world. I'll update some more photos when I get a chance.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Quick Turnaround..

Since my last post things have only gotten better down under. I know that I had complained, as I enjoy doing, to some of you about being a tad lonely and sick of the city but that soon changed (in fact the very afternoon after I spoke to most of you). With a little help/advice from a friend I lived with in Greece, I realized that the only reason I was a bit lonely was because I was simply not putting myself out there for a real opportunity to met people but that soon changed. In the last four days or so I've met so many people from all over the globe and surprisingly I've met most of them at a pub in the early afternoon, I know mom just what you wanna hear. The first guy I met was actually wearing a Cubs hat which started a long conversation. He was in town for the night with his girlfriends family from Canada and desperately needed a male companion for the night so I met up with them and partied the night away. I was even inching my way closer to the 27 year old sister when Jay and his girlfriend got in a huge fight and ended that for me.

The next night I went on a pub crawl around Sydney which was an amazing time. Not only did they provide a cool atmosphere but they also had they're own Funky Bus which, I'm sorry to say beat Marty (our short bus) in the whammytown category (the thing had its own dancefloor inside!). And not only that, but some of the dance clubs I went to were so unbelievable; these people were bringing funk that even Kevin Cash couldn't mimic. That night I met people from all over traveling through Australia and have been in steady contact with them since and am hoping to meet up with them again a little further north next week.

Yesterday I met up with Fiona, a woman I met last year through Tom Thrall, for a tour around the stunning Blue Mountains. The trees in the park create a blue haze that was truely amazing, especially as the sun went further down. We hiked for miles and miles and my eyes were witness to some of the most amazing sites I've ever seen. From scaling underneath mamouth waterfalls, seeing wildlife, and the stunning blue haze it is a must see for anyone that will ever go to Sydney. Even the smells of the Mountain and the taste of the air was something I've never experienced before. Luckily for me Fiona knew the area very well and took us to the must see tourist sites and then for a local bushwalking path. Even the tourist parts were amazing (I rode in the steepest railcar in the world down a massive gorge, of which I have a video that I'll try and get up). Either way the pictures are worth a look but really do the Mountains no justice.

Right after my return from hiking I once again got invited to go with Paula and Greg to Bastille day, the day of the French Revolution. We went to an incredible French restaurant with a bunch of our neighbors and friends for some fancy four course French cuisine. Ron and John, our neighbors are some of the funniest characters I've ever seen with our night ending in a paper airplane fight with the unwilling table next to us after what had to be eight bottles of wine.

Earlier tonight after eating breakfast and washing Anne's car (an Irish friend of Paula's) I decided to save what daylight I had left and take a trip alone to Bondi Beach, about an hour on the bus through the city. I got there in plenty of time to soak up the great atmosphere, put my toes in the chilly sand and read a book. But it was when the sun was going down that the show really started. In So. Ill. we have some of the most colourful and breathtaking sunsets I've ever seen and Greece had some that weren't too shabby either, but the sunset at Bondi tonight was the most beautiful and breathtaking one I've seen in my life. The oranges, reds, blues, and purples were awinspiring; a place that I will never forget and will frequent much more. The pictures from the beach, especially the last few almost capture the essence of it's beauty.

The last few days, ever since talking to Johnny, have really turned my trip around as a whole from seeing beautiful sites to meeting new people I feel that I have really began to see Australia and learn Australian culture. I can not say enough how lucky I truely am to be in this position with so many people willing to help me out, whether it's Greg and Craig showing me the beaches, Fiona taking a day out of her busy schedule to take me about the Mountains, Paula's unrivaled hospitality, and the people I've been able to surround myself with; it has truely been an eye opening experience of which I am truely greatful.

Now I'm preparing for World Youth Day; a week full of Catholic propaganda as the Aussies are calling it, where around 500,000 'pilgrims' will descend upon the city. Although I'd rather be heading up north, Paula convinced me to stay for the week and after looking at the events looks like it should be worth-while, even if it is spent with religious zelots from around the world.

I've also started using a different picture website, the link is: