I spent this past week with my host mum’s family in a small, inland town, called Maryborough, just a few hours north of Brisbane. I also squeezed in a couple of days over the weekend in Hervey Bay, supposedly the whale watching capital of Australia. I didn’t see any whales but to be fair I wasn’t watching that closely…
My days in Maryborough mostly consisted of hanging out with the boys around the house and at Camille’s friend’s house so I can’t say too much about the town except for that is has a lot of history and reminds me of a small, southern town in the U.S. There is river called the Mary River and a lot of sugar cane fields, which reminded me so much of my grandma’s old house on the River Road in Donaldsonville, Louisiana. Even the people are similar – obviously not cajun but definitely old school Aussie – same kind of lifestyle and work ethic as small, southern town Americans. The town itself consisted of about two main roads which still had old buildings and remnants of what used to be booming shipyards, dairy factories, etc. Apparently the town was the second port settled after Sydney but obviously never took off like the big city did.
Over the weekend, I was able to sneak away to Hervey Bay, the closest coastal town to Maryborough, only about 30 mins. away by bus. It was my first time traveling / staying in a hostel alone for a weekend. It felt a bit weird and lonely at first, to be honest, but I enjoyed having the freedom to do whatever I wanted and worry only about myself. I shared a dorm with three German backpackers, two girls and one boy. Two of them spoke very good English and we had no problem communicating but the one I went and got beers with struggled and I had to be very patient with her as she had to translate all of her thoughts into English. When we were hanging around the hostel on the second night, I had them teach me how to say something in German – they chose the phrase “Ich bin ein schmetterling,” which translates into “I am a butterfly.” Not much I can do with that phrase but yolo. We laughed a lot as they tried to teach me how to say things and I completely butchered them. All three of them are here backpacking for a few months, making their way down the east coast. They’ll be in Brisbane in a few weeks so I gave each of them my number so I can show them around when they arrive. It’s a pretty good feeling to be able to show off the city to people now like it’s mine.
Aside from my adventures with the German crew, I spent a lot of time walking and wandering around alone. My first day in Hervey Bay, I got a full breakfast at a cafe and then walked along the beach for hours until I reached the famous Urangan Pier, which is 868 meters long – that’s a really long pier. I walked around the market over there and then walked to the end of the pier, watching fishermen catch fish along the way. After a nice, long walk and a few hours enjoying the beautiful day on the beach and in the ocean, I made my journey back. I stopped again on the beach when I got closer to the hostel to watch the sunset. Although I couldn’t see the sun hit the water, the lighting was beautiful and it was such a peaceful setting to enjoy.
The next morning I started the day off at a cafe on the beach, called Enzo’s. I had a delicious iced coffee with ice cream in it (Apparently when they ask you if you want cream in your iced coffee here, they mean ice cream. Lolz.) and a muffin. They had huge bean bag chairs with umbrellas above them for seating with a view of the calm, turquoise waters of the bay. I was in heaven just sitting there, feeling the breeze and reading my book. I spent a few hours there, much longer than expected, because I was too relaxed to move. Eventually, I headed down to the beach where I posted up near the water and ran into the ocean for a swim immediately. I spent probably a good hour in the water staring at the horizon and doing some laps through the waves (ambitious I know) before I got out to sunbathe a bit and head back to the hostel, where Camille would be picking me up.
All in all, I had a really amazing time solo wandering. I’ve been noticing how common it has become for young women from everywhere to travel the world alone. Nearly every hostel I stay in, there almost seems to be more women traveling alone than men. It makes me realize how far women have come in asserting their independence and how well society has progressed in encouraging it. There were also some older folks there, around their 60s, which I found odd at first but I guess when I remember where I am, it would totally be like an Aussie to not put an age limit on the hostel experience. Most of them just want to travel and their means to doing so is normally pretty flexible – even at an older age it seems. I am really enjoying that laid-back culture and easygoing lifestyle that Australians pride themselves on. Life is meant to be lived and it seems that as an overall nation, they have fully grasped that.
I am back in Ferny Hills this week caring for the boys but will be cutting the week short with a trip down to Melbourne Friday. I am so so excited to see another part of the country and get to explore a city so many people talk about! I’ll be staying with another friend from the camp in Maine and Leslie, who will be meeting us in the city from the farm she is staying at with her host family right now. Plenty of adventures to share next week, I’m sure!