Since my last post, I’ve celebrated Christmas in two different Australian locations with both of my Aussie “families” and completed a roadtrip down to Sydney and back. The weeks flew by but there were so many great memories made and moments captured.
Like I’ve mentioned several times before, spending Christmas away from our families was something new and different for James and I. Of course we were thrilled to have each other but there is always a bit of homesickness that finds its way in when spending such special days with other families and their families in a country so far from home. Luckily though, we couldn’t have been treated with more generosity and love when it comes to our holidays at our homes away from home. On Christmas Eve, James and I drove up to Maryborough, QLD, where my host family was staying with their extended family. Camille’s mom, who was our host and someone I’ve gotten to know well during my time here, made us feel very welcome and even gave both of us Christmas presents to open Christmas morning. We spent Christmas Eve roaming around the town of Maryborough, climbing a fig tree, and talking + drinking with Camille’s Aussie family for hours until we decided we better get to sleep before Santa caught us. 😉
Kirin woke James and I up bright and early on Christmas morning, holding out his empty plate that Santa had cleaned, with a huge smile and full of energy. It was really special to share that moment with him- really makes you feel the Christmas spirit working. We then had a beautiful breakfast, completed with a champagne toast, and chatted with Camille’s family before we made our way to Noosa for our next Christmas celebration.
As soon as we arrived in Noosa, Olivia and Hannah’s mom, Felicity, had an incredible brunch prepared with three different meats, stuffing, cheese cauliflower, sweet potatoes and Australia’s signature dessert, Pavlova. I hadn’t had a meal that good in a long time so I ate until I was way overstuffed and then we spent the rest of the day with a swim in the ocean and then hours in front of the TV. Not a bad Christmas for a couple of Americans thousands of miles away from home.
After spending what they call “Boxing Day” (the day after Christmas) frolicking in the Noosa waves and doing the 11k coastal walk, James and I set out for our journey back to Brisbane. We stopped at several spots along the Sunshine Coast on the way home including Mt. Coolum (one of the highest points on the Sunshine Coast), a coffee shop in the beautiful coastal town of Mooloolaba, King’s Beach in Caloundra and finally the Glasshouse Mountains lookout. Driving through the Glasshouse Mountains was my favorite part of the day as the sun was just right and we were jamming to “Land Down Under” to set the mood. Good times.
A day of rest later, Olivia, Leslie, Danielle, James and I set out for our trip down to Sydney. We packed Olivia’s Mom’s car completely full and set out for Byron Bay and eventually our first campsite of the trip. It was the perfect kind of sunny day to be at Byron and we walked all the way down to the most easterly point of Australia, giving us some incredible views and close-ups of the rocks and the crashing waves that you normally see from the top of the hill when visiting Byron.
A green and hilly drive eventually led us to our first campground to try out – nearly all of them were booked this time of the year so we knew we’d have to get lucky when trying to find a spot for the night. We got denied once and with it being nearly dark, Leslie and I got bold and ended up asking a couple of nice, Aussie blokes to share their campsite with us as it was being half-used. They agreed and we ended up having good company to drink and talk with the rest of the evening.
Day 2 we set out for a campground just north of Sydney, stopping at a beach in Coffs Harbour on the way. Olivia, James and I played a quick game (my first game) of cricket and James and I found a cool spot down the beach where people were swimming in a little current as if it was a lazy river. We tried it out for ourselves a couple of times before joining back up with the rest of the crew to make our way down to the next stop. That night we camped in a little bayside village called Patonga along Australia’s Central Coast. It was fairly isolated and felt exclusive as it took a pretty long time to get to on one, hilly road through the mountains. It was a beautiful little spot and offered us nice, hot showers and great views to go with our cafe-bought coffee in the morning.
That afternoon, on New Year’s Eve, we made it to Sydney and while we had a hostel booked, we ended up canceling it and moving in with Theresa’s friend, Luke, who we spent a weekend showing Brissy to, for a couple of nights. He is an au pair down there with a wealthy family so we had a sweet pad to crash at, in one of Sydney’s richest suburbs, and a comfortable venue to party at on New Year’s. We decided not to bother with the overpriced nightclubs in the city and spent the evening swimming, drinking, jamming, drinking, eating, and watching fireworks from a hill near the house that gave us a perfect view of the harbour. I felt so lucky to ring in the new year with such an incredible view and such exciting people by my side. People from all over the world were standing around us, chugging champagne and lighting sparklers, with joy lighting up their faces. What a way to begin 2017.
New Year’s Day was bittersweet. Olivia, Leslie and I had tickets for the music festival, Field Day, which we went to and had a great time seeing live bands and singing along to some of our favorite songs.Chance the Rapper and Childish Gambino were headlining with acts like Client Liaison, Highasakite and Phantogram in the mix. It was also the same day, though, that I found out my grandma on my Dad’s side, Granna, had passed away. I knew she wasn’t doing well but it came as a shock to me how quickly it went downhill. I took some time for myself that morning, with James and the rest of my travel buds there to support me, but eventually put a smile back on my face because the Granna I knew would never had wanted me to stop or miss out on a thing. We all shared a toast to her and continued living life, the way she would’ve.
The journey back was a lot shorter and simpler it seemed, with only Olivia, James and I to squeeze in the car since Leslie and Danielle made their way to Tasmania. Our big stop was in Port Macquarie, where Google Maps led us to a vehicle ferry and then down a sandy road in the middle of nowhere to get to the campsite we planned on staying at. After a bit of an adventurous drive and a responsible discussion, we turned back and ended up finding a spot right next to the beach to sleep in the car at. We had a lot of laughs that night and woke up bright and early to the sunrise the next morning to finish off the trip. I even got in a walk on the beach for Granna in the morning while the other two were waking up.
The adventures ended with a stop in another coastal town called Yamba, enjoying some fresh fish n’ chips and some beers at a picnic table next to the beach with a quick swim in the ocean on a windy afternoon. And with the Brisbane skyline soon enough in site, it was time to get back to our Australian reality. I can’t believe how quick it went by but I am eternally grateful for every new memory made and destination explored those couple of weeks along the east coast of Australia.