Hello from Aus! After a few mishaps which may or may not have involved lost luggage and a passport misplaced several hundred miles away, it is a true miracle that I am drafting this blog post from a van carrying the full crew. We said goodbye to New Zealand with heavy hearts, but it has been difficult to dwell on missing the Kiwis because the first week in country #2 of this insane experience has been a whirlwind of adventures launching us headfirst into life in 'straya.
Upon arrival at our campsite for the night, we were greeted by none other than about 50 kangaroos casually laying about on the grass and clearly wondering what right we thought we had to set up camp on their turf. With our fingers crossed that they hadn't figured out how to use tent zippers, we settled in for our first night in Australia and enjoyed a warm welcome of torrential downpour. Though our tents were soaked and our feet were muddy, our spirits remained untouched as we set out the following morning to begin our second canoe trip, this time up the Noosa Everglades.
The aggressive rain clouds seemed to take a liking to us and followed us for most of our first day on the water, but with the hot and incredibly humid climate the rain was barely a hindrance. In fact, once we embraced the idea of being thoroughly soaked, it became pretty fun to belt out lyrics to popular (and not so popular) songs into the relentless rain while attempting to paddle our canoes upstream. Thanks to our sheer willpower and tenacity (and also a break in the rain), we made it to camp after a long day on the water.
Our 3-day trip was marked by several jumps into the river water--which Andy made sure we knew had a chance of containing bull sharks that had wandered too far upstream, a 12km hike to an enormous sand patch reminiscent of a desert landscape, "canoe questions" as food for thought to while away the hours on the water, lots of sweating, and consistent 7pm bedtimes.
Upon the conclusion of our Noosa excursion, we made a stop at none other than the Steve Irwin Australian Zoo, where we received a comprehensive tour of the phenomenal wildlife hospital facilities as well as the zoo itself. We couldn't believe reality as we hand-fed kangaroos and touched the soft fur on a koala's back, reveling in the connections we were able to make with Australian wildlife after having only been on this continent for a few days.
Our next stop was Byron Bay, a beautiful surf town where we were stationed for 3 days and got to enjoy the beaches, lighthouse, restaurants and fantastic street performers who took up their mark and drew crowds at various street corners as the night grew dark. To our chagrin, the swell decided to be particularly rowdy on the day we were scheduled to snorkel and scuba dive, but we made the most of the unexpectedly free day by getting out on the water and having a surf lesson as a precursor to surf camp in Crescent Head (our next stop).
After tearing it up on the waves, we regrouped back at camp and settled onto the beach for a core session focusing on empathy. Realizing that we had not yet seen the lighthouse up close, we finished our final day in Byron with a drive up to the lighthouse lookout over the surf, followed by dinner at a cozy pizza place which our troupe nearly filled to capacity.
It's hard to believe that all of these adventures were packed into a single week, and yet when I think about it, I realize that every day feels as if it could be a week itself with the amount of things we have the privilege of taking part in on a daily basis. The group has really cemented its sense of togetherness at this point and traveling around in our new van (christened Slick Rick to replace Sweaty Eddy) feels like road tripping with one very large, very rambunctious family. As our surroundings seem to continually transform before our eyes, it is a comfort and really just a stroke of luck to have such a solid backbone of a group as our constant variable throughout the trip. I feel lucky every day to be part of this incredible group of humans and can say with certainty that with us ashore, Australia doesn't know what it's in for.