Ocean Views and Running Shoes (and too many other things to fit into this title)

Due to my excellent skills at procrastination, tickets for Sydney were hella expensive when I came around to browsing them. I think that will have to be an adventure for the month of June, perhaps after finals are over. Then I can fully embrace the “New York” of Australia without any assignments pestering me from the back burner in my mind. Plus, I see a half-marathon in my midst, and what’s a better way to run 13 miles than to circle the Opera House a few times? Oh the joys of compromising with myself.

We instead embarked out to Byron Bay to occupy the second week of our excessive two-week Easter break. Byron exemplifies a complete surfer, hippie style town where shoes are optional and your gelato may or may not be laced with a few special ingredients. The beach has pillowy white sand with countless little seashell treasures (At the souvenir rate I’m going, these may be all I got for my promised and favorite Americans…kidding) Twas the perfect venue for some kick ass morning beach runs.

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It’s a peaceful and surreal setting of vast ocean views, where the coast hooks around the eastern most point of Australia. Our first encounter with notable wildlife (besides the GBR) happened here when a rock wallaby leapt past us as we gazed out this lookout point:

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           The Most Easternly Point of Australia!

Like many beach getaways up the eastern coast, this place was a backpacker’s oasis with the added originality of small town flare. Our arrival day consisted of being distracted by tacos and beer. This made the hostel-search a little challenging late in the day. We found another Nomads, which seemed to be excessively classier than the one in Cairns, but it added to the list of booked no-goes. Finally, we came upon Main Beach Backpacker’s and another hostel experience was born.

We walked into our 16-bed hostel room to be greeted by a mix of Swedish and Canadian backpackers. They were playing cards and relaxing after what looked like an exhausting day of surfing and living the life. Although I don’t smoke myself, I take it from those who do smoke that it’s a solid way to meet new people. All you simply do is ask for a light and boom, you have the entry for a random conversation. I lack this strategy at striking up conversations, slash I’m already significantly awkward in general. Instead I befriended the batch of Europeans and Canadians in the only way I had left: Egyptian rat slap (or Egyptian rat screw, slap that, Orph, or whatever else is it is referred to in this crazy world). Card games and beer go together well when it starts to drizzle outside…until in true Australian fashion we went out on the town anyways. I am beginning to realize that there are few breaks from the celebratory culture of Australians and backpackers alike…

Byron Bay is also where we met Julian. An enormously friendly and carefree soul, Julian is a backpacker from Germany who we caught in the middle of his adventures. He had been surfing in multiple places on his tour up the east coast of Australia, where he planned to continue on to Hawaii and beyond. Long story short, we didn’t share a proper good-bye to our new friend as we rushed out of the hostel, which was a bummer. But more about this in a bit.

Dani and I then finished our break off by venturing to the mysterious Toowoomba campus of USQ (where we originally enrolled for study abroad until we found out it was significantly far from the city). We were there to celebrate our friend Courtney’s 21st birthday, which involved a night out in the very unique small town of Toowoomba. My mind scans over that night and hold on, yep, it involved many free drinks, a very small 80-year-old man in a letter jacket dancing like a boss, too many fog machines, and some other various clubbers in wigs and 80’s exercise gear. Make of that what you can.

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We then ended the illustrious night with none other than my first Tim Tam slam: chomping off two corners of a Tim Tam and using it as a chocolate straw to drink hot water or milk. Note to self: buy another suitcase to fill with Tim Tams before I go home, because they are incredible.

The next weekend some friends and I hit up an NRL game in Brisbane. The National Rugby League and Rugby Union are very popular in Australia, with significantly less if any padding on the athletes as there is in American football. Basically it’s a great view of very meaty and ripped men, to the point where you are in awe but also a little terrified if they get too close.

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           This wasn’t even the team we were cheering for, but this picture had to be taken.

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The rules vary between League and Union. Every Australian you meet will have a strong opinion on which one is better, and I mean strong as in don’t get them started. There is also the Australian Football League, but I honestly have no clue what the rule difference is for that on either so I won’t get into it. The game was a refreshing experience though and definitely made me miss going to sporting events. It was also short and sweet, to the point when everyone was getting up to leave, I honestly thought it was half time. I guess that’s another way to decipher between Australian rugby and American football, that you’ll be home and sober a few hours earlier after a Rugby game (or Dad’s football naps would be significantly shorter).

That Monday brought our friend Sam’s 21st birthday. We got some pizza and drinks (go figure) and headed up to Mt. Coot-Tha. This place has a brilliant view of the city, it kind of reminds of looking out over Bozeman from the top of the M.

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Jumping ahead to the 25th of April. I celebrated ANZAC (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) Day, a holiday equivalent to our Memorial Day. We (Steph and her friend Andrew and I) woke up at 2:00 am and traveled to the city for the dawn service. We then got some pancakes, took a nap on South Bank near the lagoon, and watched the ANZAC Day parade.

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           The Parade

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ANZAC Memorial Square

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We finished the morning/early afternoon with some drinks in an exclusive underground bar in the city. Steph’s family friend Adam has served alongside her Dad and was wearing an impressive amount of medals on his uniform. Following Adam, it was one of those “They’re with me” moments and boom, we were all granted entry into the pub with other ANZAC Day elites. I felt special but also out of place, considering that I only learned of ANZAC Day a few days before Steph invited me. In the end it was a very cool experience, especially from the American point-of-view.

Now time to rewind again, remember Julian who I mentioned from Byron Bay? Well about a week after break ended, I got a message from King Julian himself in a complete frenzy. He asked if he could rock up on his way through Brisbane, as all of his couch-surfing and hostel opportunities fell through. Not one to say no to adorable surfing Germans, (especially ones I didn’t get to say good-bye to!) I informed the roommates that there would be a German and a surfboard lodged on our couch for the weekend. Their looks of confusion diminished within seconds upon his arrival, and to make a long story short, a weekend of Tim Tam slams, bouncy-house jumping, skip-bo, pool, and beach soccer was had by all.

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Dani and the German

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           Gold Coast for the Day

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Life returned to normal (If you can even say that in Australia) once Julian had to continue on with his own journey. It was nice to have the lad drop by though!

In other random and exhilarating Lizzy life events, I broke up with running for a week…

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        Threw this in for good measure.

Nah, but in all reality my relationship with running had been going a little downhill (That one’s for you, Peick) Clarification: After consistently running for about nine years now, I am no stranger to the day-to-day battle that occurs between my running shoes and myself. It’s a daily decision: either you beat the laziness and get your butt out the door, or you live through the guilt of skipping out. In my case, the feeling of pre-run dread was building up because I’ve lacked something specific to train for. So in a weird reverse psychological way of dealing with it, I made myself not run for a good seven days…and towards the end I realized I genuinely needed to go or else I would go crazy. So I signed myself up and started to train for a half-marathon in Sydney. Not saying that I’ve gotten rid of periodical run reluctance, but I’m really looking forward to racing again and it’s nice to have a plan to stick with. Plus, it’s always great to nerd out with my GPS watch.

The whirlwind adventure in Australia has yet to cease. Today is Dani’s 21st birthday, followed by Lauren’s 18th birthday the next weekend, and then I am off to Middle Earth. New Zealand bound that is, the one place I have dreamed of visiting since I was twelve years old. Don’t ask me why I started dreaming of New Zealand when I was twelve, it just happened. And then I promise there will be time to visit the Australian Zoo to finally hug that darn koala in which I wish not to contract some disease. Until I feel the urge to recap, enjoy your well-deserved summers, my friends!

Tim Tams and Pineapple Lumps,

Lizzy

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