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Australia – the land of nice people!
January 9th, 2010 by Kate
Even though we’re now in New Zealand and I have SO much to write about THIS amazing country – I must go back to Australia as my last email certainly did not do it justice.  Might I suggest going and making yourself “a cuppa” and settling down in front of your computer because I’ve been slacking on the blog writing and I’m about to make up for some lost time!

 I really can’t even begin to talk about Australia until I tell you about the people.  I’m going to go out on a limb here and make a whopping generalization – but I reckon Australians just might be the nicest people on earth.  They are friendly and helpful and outgoing and really just plain fun.  All of them.  Yep.   

 In the month that we were in Australia we camped for 6 days and the entire rest of the time we stayed with Australians that we met while traveling in countries other than Australia, or through couchsurfing.com.  And while we find the country of Australia beautiful and fascinating, in retrospect, it ends up that the people were the highlights of our entire month!

This is the view from our bedroom window on Ian & Leone's beautiful farm.  They have 4,500 macadamia nut trees, 150 head of cattle, and about 50 really cute alpaca! Plus a swimming pool and tennis court - my kind of farm!

This is the view from our bedroom window on Ian & Leone's beautiful farm. They have 4,500 macadamia nut trees, 150 head of cattle, and about 50 really cute alpaca! Plus a swimming pool and tennis court - my kind of farm!

 We met Ian and Leone (Ian is Phoebe’s new best friend – sorry girls back at school, she likes you too but you don’t have alpacas and let her work in your macadamia nut factory) in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam and stayed at their beautiful farm on the Gold Coast.  I think I already mentioned that I found this farm to be a little slice of paradise – and our time here was exactly what we needed after 4 months in Asia.  The air was clean, the scenery right out of one of my favorite magazines, and Ian is one of the most genuine people I have ever met.  Phoebe and Ian were inseperatable the entire time we where there (because she followed Ian around relentlessly) and I dare to say that both of them loved every minute of their time together.  Ian needs to be a grandpa (and soon!) – he will be one of the best ever if his time with Phoebe was any indication.  He was interesting, an incredibly hard worker, funny, kind, and amazingly patient.  I’m so sad that I didn’t get pictures of Phoebe and Ian working side by side in the “nut house” (the macadamia nut processing plant) or Phoebe working at Ian’s booth at the local farmer’s market.  Both are memories that I hold dear and that I know Phoebe will remember forever.

Our view from the porch...

Our view from the porch...

After Billinugel, we moved on to Brisbane.  We met our Greg the old fashion way, through the couchsurfing website, and he spoiled us rotten in Brisbane.  Greg drove all the way down to Coolegata to pick us up, and in addition to letting us stay at his great place, he lent us his car and GPS so we could terrorize the City!  What a great city and a great new friend!  Brisbane is definately a city that deserves some more exploring – we drove by tons of hip looking cafes and a ton of great looking clothing and shelter stores… maybe someday when the US dollar is stronger against the Australian dollar I’ll come back and and do some further retail exploration!

The most fun way to explore Brisbane (Brisy) is by boat - the river runs right through the middle of the City.  We took it to the Contemporary Art Museum - a super wonderful day in a great museum in a great city!

The most fun way to explore Brisbane (Brisy) is by boat - the river runs right through the middle of the City. We took it to the Contemporary Art Museum - a super wonderful day in a great museum in a great city!

And the Kanters in Noosa – we go WAY back with them… all the way back to our hostel in Osaka, Japan!  We had a total blast in Noosa – staying with them was like being at a top rate bed and breakfast, and their kids Nick and Annika were some of the coolest teenagers I’ve ever met.  Noosa reminded us of La Jolla in California (a lot of Australia has reminded us of CA, but with a LOT fewer people and lots more open space).  Pieter and Jane were SUCH amazing hosts – Jeff and I felt like we had known them for years and our friendship came very easy.  They are both teachers and have really great outlooks on life, and on raising kids.  It is so refreshing to come across people (halfway around the world too, imagine that!)  that share similar values about family and friends and the bigger world.  It was also great for the girls to be around teenagers who are fun, respectful, good students, and good people. 

The Wells and Kanters clans

The Wells and Kanters clans

 In Noosa we hiked, beached, kayaked, shopped, went to the movies (movies are OUTRAGOUSLY expensive down under – kids tickets were $16 and adults $22!) and (not so proudly) my kids introduced the Kanters kids to “The Office”.  An “Office” marathon was the highlight of the week for ALL the kids – I think when it was all said and done they managed to get through the first four sessions in their entirety!

 We can’t wait to see the Kanters again, and we hope they’ll put the US on their travel list soon (or at least send the kids out to us for the holidays!).

 After Noosa, we headed back to Brisbane for our flight down to Sydney.  We had a week to kill before Christmas, and didn’t have a plan (or a clue) about where we wanted to be.  Jeff really wanted to do some surfing, I wanted to lay around on the beach, hit a few farmer’s markets and explore the quaint beach towns, and the girls were looking for some kids to play with… so we decided to head to the beach south of Sydney.  We got into Sydney late at night, and couldn’t pick up our rental car until the next morning, so we spent the evening searching the internet for a cheap beach hotel.  And we had NO luck. 

 Australia is really expensive for us to travel in right now – their dollar is very strong against our dollar and they have had major inflation for about 8 years now so we really couldn’t find a single good deal that fit into our budget.  Have I mentioned ever that our budget is $150 a day for the four of us including travel, food and lodging?  We couldn’t find a single hotel even remotely close to any beach for less than $150 to start!

 We were just about to give up and book ourselves into this expensive, lame hotel when this bright green van drove by that said “JUICY” on it.  It was yet another “campervan” that we’d seen all over the Gold and Sunshine Coasts.  For those of you that don’t know this about Australia, they are obsessed with camping.  Many families have their own campervans, but for those that don’t, they have a zillion rental companies (“JUICY” being one of the biggest) that rent all kinds of variations on on the campervan. 

 Phoebe said it first.  “Let’s see how much one of those costs – we can drive it instead of our rental car, and we can live in it too”.  Tessa (having camped more with me that Phoebe has) just rolled her eyes and said “yeah right”.  Jeff said he’d check it out.  I said I’d be game as long as we could get a hotel if it was raining.  So off Jeff and Phoebe went to find us a campervan of our very own.

 But the campervans were totally expensive too.  Two-hundred and fifty dollars a day!  They had one other option – a “camperwagon” for only $70 a day – and it came with a tent, a stove, some chairs, and some other random camping gear.   SOLD!

Our 1995 Ford Falcon camperwagon stationwagon was a real looker.  It had a giant “RENT ME” sign in the back window, a badly dented front bumper, and it shimmied when you went over 80km (about 50mph).  Our tent smelled really bad of mildew, and they forgot our stove.  And it rained on the very first night but it was too late at that point to find a proper hotel.  None of us were happy.

Tessa & Phoebe's bed for 6 nights - in the back of the ole Ford Falcon!

Tessa & Phoebe's bed for 6 nights - in the back of the ole Ford Falcon!

Our little camp site...

Our little camp site...

 But the “holiday park” was really nice – and in a zillion dollar location.  A really nice family moved in across the drive from us and let us borrow a tarp and some poles and Jeff fashioned a nice little living room for us.  Phoebe and I dragged a picnic table over from a empty campsite a few “pads” up – and a bottle of Fabreeze cleaned up the tent smell quite nice.  The sun came out, we got some fresh bread and some amazing local cheese from the farmers market, and even managed to find some proper surf boards to rent.  We had planned on staying for 2 nights, and we ended staying for SIX nights!

This was actually the view from our campsite - our favorite surfing beach was down the cliff on the left side of the pic about 100 meters

This was actually the view from our campsite - our favorite surfing beach was down the cliff on the left side of the pic about 100 meters

  

Phoebe being Phoebe...

Phoebe being Phoebe...

 Tessa and Phoebe, always being the center of their social worlds set about amassing a gang of trailer park kids – they played, swam, surfed, made up dances, learned the ins and outs of rugby, and highly amused the kids and their parents alike with their “American accents”.  It was for sure the best camping location in the world, and much to my surprise, it was a blast and I was sad to leave!  But the vagabonds that we are – we packed up the old Falcon and moved on…

The Surf Beach Holiday Park Gang - Tessa, Phoebe, Jai, Anna, Monique, and Jellena

The Surf Beach Holiday Park Gang - Tessa, Phoebe, Jai, Anna, Monique, and Jellena

And our reason for coming to Australia in December – Bobby – our fabulous friend we met through couchsurfing when she “surfed our couch” back in Phoenix in November of 2008.  She casually mentioned to us that we should stop by Canberra for Xmas, we are SURE never imagining that we’d actually take her up on it!

Day-after Christmas brunch with Bobbi & Chappo- she is a crazy good cook and fattened us up!

Day-after Christmas brunch with Bobbi & Chappo- she is a crazy good cook and fattened us up!

We had a great time in Canberra – everyone told us that Canberra was boring, but we totally enjoyed the National Gallery and their great science center called Questacon.  We had a quiet Christmas morning (Santa even managed to find us and brought the girls olives and pickles – their favorite gifts!) and then had a total Christmas dinner feast with Bobby and her fiance Ben (Chappo).  As an added bonus, a family of real wild kangaroos hopped thorugh the backyard while we finished dessert – a perfect ending to our Australian Christmas!

Not your typical Xmas treat - but we've been without olives and pickles for months so Santa scored a big goal with these treats under our Xmas plant (see plant in background).

Not your typical Xmas treat - but we've been without olives and pickles for months so Santa scored a big goal with these treats under our Xmas plant (see plant in background).


4 Responses  
Auntie Krissy writes:
January 10th, 2010 at 5:52 pm

I’ve done the math… by renting the camperwagon you managed to save $80/night (considering your $150/day budget) for 6 nights, that totals $480.00. Book yourself into a kick ass hotel and spa for the night!!!! Massages for EVERYONE!!!!

Kirsten Coury writes:
January 11th, 2010 at 1:04 pm

I have been following your adventures from the beginning and have been amazed at all of your wonderful experiences. I am soooo glad that you got to spend and extended time (even Christmas) in Aussie land. After having lived their myself and spending 2 Christmases there, I agree that they are some of the most wonderful people you will ever meet and it is a great and different place to spend the holidays. Have continued fun on all your upcoming adventures and thank you all for sharing with us.

Cricket Bourget writes:
January 15th, 2010 at 10:06 pm

Glad for the catch-up, I was missing your blog. Even started watching the Travel Channel for my fix, but Anthony Bourdain’s just no fun–I’ve never seen that man cuddle a koala bear (that picture of Phoebe on her post is priceless!).

Tiffany Scharn writes:
January 22nd, 2010 at 11:45 am

Amazing post from a farm to a beach! All on $150/day for 4? WOW…now I have even more to brag about you! Very impressive!

I must must go to Australia in my lifetime as San Fran & Seattle are 2 of my favorite cities! And NICE people…yeah not so much down here in South Florida. I almost got run over in the Whole Foods parking lot yesterday :)

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