Seven weeks later, our time in Australia has come to an end. Warren and I are up at 3am tomorrow to board a flight to Fiji. Here’s a look back at some stories you haven’t been told yet.
“Do you like magic tricks?”
The question was harmless enough, but as we sat on a subway train bound for Sydney’s red light district, it took on a more dangerous tone. Across from us sat an 18-year-old shuffling a deck of cards and sizing us up with a look of sly curiosity.
This is it, I thought. We’re either about to get robbed or get a free show. Figuring the former was more likely than the latter, my hand shot reflexively for my wallet. I lost a phone on the train in Italy last year; I wasn’t about to make the same mistake.
Against our better judgment, we took him up on the offer. He’s just a kid, right? we thought to ourselves. What could really happen?
Out came the cards in a flourish. The show was on.
He proceeded to run the gamut of tricks in his repertoire, starting with cards and moving to disappearing objects, levitation, and magnetic powers. He did this while following us up the elevator from our subway stop and out into the street.
I braced myself for the inevitable pickpocketing. Nobody with a sleight of hand like this is up to any good, I thought. The longer he stuck around, the more sure I became.
We eventually made our escape in between magic tricks, apologizing that we needed to get on our way. We both checked our pockets and bags — nothing gone.
Sometimes a magician really is a magician.
“So many lows,” Warren laughed.
We sat side-by-side on the curb, greasy and sleep-deprived, eating tuna straight out of the can for dinner. Our bus was parked just behind us, emptying and refilling with bleary-eyed passengers smoking cigarettes and making trips to the gas station bathroom. We were halfway to Airlie Beach, which should have been cause for excitement, except halfway in this case meant another nine hours of driving. It was a long night.
We had boarded the bus in Rainbow Beach at 12:45pm. We didn’t arrive at our destination until 7:30am. One overnight bus ride was enough, but we had planned another one to Cairns for two nights later. The fun was just getting started.
The second time around, we ended up arriving in Cairns at 5:30am — far too early to check into our hostel, but conveniently, just in time to watch the sunrise. I came to enjoy watching the sunrise as part of my daily routine as a morning reporter, so it was nice to see our first of the trip. (Warren passed out on a park bench for the rest of the morning.)
All told, we spent over 24 hours on a bus in the span of 60-odd hours. Never again.
True story: while in Cairns, we drove up a mountain and through a forest fire to go swimming in a volcanically-formed lake with a freshwater crocodile. (I know what you’re thinking: sounds implausible, but the Cubs won the World Series, so everything’s on the table now.)
On that same road trip, we had our first encounter with an Australian spider (that is to say, a frigging huge one). Just our luck, it involved the spider finding its way into our SUV.
I had pulled over to look for my wallet in the trunk when Warren first spotted it crawling across the outside of the passenger window. Seconds later, our roommate, Thomas, saw it too. They got out to get a better look at it, only it had seemingly disappeared as quickly as it came. We resolved to continue on.
I went to open the driver’s side door, and there it was, perched in the doorframe. As quickly as you could yell “spider,” it had crawled into the SUV. We were screwed.
The rest of our travel companions fell over each other to get out of the backseat. What could we do? We sure as hell weren’t getting back into the car with that in there. A thousand nightmares played out in each of our minds, picturing the spider hidden somewhere in the SUV, laying in wait.
We resolved to open all of the doors and hope to God that the spider would crawl out. A minute later, I spotted it in the trunk. It was as least as wide as the length of a finger. In a repeat act of bravery in the face of danger, Warren grabbed the trunk lid where the spider was perched and hucked it into the grass.
I’ve made sure to check my shoes and socks for spiders ever since.
Things I’ve seen:
1. The Great Barrier Reef, Part 2.
Rarely do sequels live up to the original, but this is the exception — the Godfather II, Dark Knight, or Toy Story 2, if you will.
The Great Barrier Reef needs to be seen to be properly appreciated — it really is an entirely different ecosystem. We saw clownfish, stingrays, hundreds of other colourful fish and coral, and this little guy below.
2. Josephine Falls.
Quite possibly the most impressive falls we’ve seen in Australia, and not a bad place to take a swim.
3. Miles of coastline.
On our last day in Australia, we drove up to Daintree National Park, home to a 200-million-year-old rainforest. The drive took us along the Great Barrier Reef Drive, an absolutely beautiful stretch of road between Cairns and Cape Tribulation.
What I’ve been reading/listening to:
Paulo Coelho – The Zahir
Derin Falana – Live From Rocky Mountain
Childish Gambino – “Sober”