‚It took me almost 10 hrs. to get here, I must really like you!’ ‚It took me almost 48 hrs. to get here, I like you more!’
My first stop in Australia was Hervey Bay on the east coast where I was going to visit friends for Christmas. I met these wonderful souls 6 years ago when I was an au-pair in New Zealand and on holiday in Australia. Back then I randomly ended up staying with that awesome girl and her daughter. We kept in touch over the years and in the end, she was one of the reasons for me to really put my travel plans into action.
Transportation in Australia
In Australia, same as in Asia, budget airlines are the best way to get around. I took my international flight to Sydney and then used my Jetstar vouchers to purchase an additional short-distance flight to Brisbane. Important note, Sydney airport is locked over night which I completely didn’t even consider an option. I arrived late night and as usual, I was just going to spend the night at the airport. Well, that turned out to be tricky. I was kicked out of the building and spent the night snuggling with my bag in the entrance area outside the airport, at least I wasn’t the only ‘homeless person’. You can also take one of the numerous Greyhound buses to travel around. They are cheap and spacious and if you’re lucky not too packed with people. Be flexible though, my bus didn’t turn up so I had to ask around and just boarded another bus going my direction. 7 hrs. later we arrived in Hervey Bay and I could already see my friend’s silhouettes waving at me – it was probably the weirdest and best feeling at the same time. So much yet so little had changed. A year ago they had built their new house close to the beach. Last time I stayed with them was at their old place in Coolangatta, Gold Coast. It was great to see how far they had come and I was somewhat proud of my girl Anj how she had overcome struggles in life and always carried a positive attitude and a big smile around with her. It is so inspiring to have positive souls like her in your life. And not only were we going to celebrate Christmas but also her birthday.
Christmas Celebration in Australia
Christmas in Australia is somewhat special, especially coming from cold Europe. Same as in the States Christmas day is on the 25th of December and presents are exchanged in the morning. Having spent Christmas in New Zealand I had experienced this routine before. In Germany, we exchange presents the evening of the 24th December and the following 2 days are all about eating up to a point where you can’t move. Starting the day with unwrapping presents was definitely fun. The whole day we sat together and had Christmas ham, bread rolls, and salads. I won’t forget the ‘Potato Bake Chicken Salad’ that actually had potato chips with chicken flavor as ingredients. Of course, my friend had also made the famous ‘Pavlova’ dessert: It’s a meringue cake decorated with whipped cream and fruit (the Kiwis and Aussies keep arguing where it’s originally from).
The day continued with outdoor activities and Beach Cricket. I really enjoyed that the family was spending time together. We finished the day off with Christmas movies – I guess that’s a tradition all over the world as I could imagine me sitting together with my parents doing just the same at home. Finally, we went for a quick visit to their friends for a traditional Christmas drink, Custard with Scotch. Luckily, little presents from my parents had safely found their way from Germany to Australia. Remember to remind everyone to not send you any wooden material, chocolates etc. as they will be double-checked by authorities and it will take ages for your packages to arrive. Well, my grandma wouldn’t listen so I didn’t get her package and when it finally arrived at my friend’s weeks later everything was broken and squashed.
Christmas day was spent watching the new Star Wars movie…because why not? Going to the movies at 9 am was an experience though. I have never even seen a cinema from the inside in the morning hours but I finally got to eat some salty popcorn again (we like it sweet in Germany!). And talking about food: Don’t leave Hervey Bay without having tried the ‘Burrumhead’s Big Mouth Burger’ which is a 30cm burger you definitely won’t be able to finish by yourself…well, you can always try!
Discovering Hervey Bay
If you’re looking for a day trip, Fraser Island is always a good idea. You can just book the ferry to get over there or chose from a variety of day-trip packages. Of course, skydiving is also an option over there, I was going to save my first skydive for Hawai’i though. Hervey Bay is also nice to hang out: walk along the beach and grab a coffee at ‘Delibay Café’. Around Christmas Hervey Bay proudly present their American-like street of Christmas lights which is totally worth visiting and very authentic. Lion’s Beach is also fun for a beach day and BBQ in the evening. One thing I love about Australia is the kangaroos that are jumping around like rabbits in Germany. Other than that I think the public BBQ areas are a great idea as people can meet up there and use them for free. Also, try ‘Goody’s’ in Toogoom which is a nice open-air restaurant with live music.
While being grateful that I could spend time with my friends after all that time again, I found myself in a very unique situation which deserves my final words. My friend’s mom was very sick and no one knew how much time they would have left together. I had actually offered my friend to cancel my visit because I didn’t want to intrude. With very warm words she told me not to and so we spent an intense Christmas all together which was most likely going to be the last Christmas for her mom. It was one more reason for us to make it extra special for her so we brought our cultures together and tried to create some last joyful memories for her. They would decorate a traditional Christmas cake while Jada (the-not-so-little-daughter-anymore) and I would bake some German Christmas cookies and we would embrace all kinds of culture-specific Christmas traditions. I won’t forget the moments with Nana when she randomly started laughing or was commenting Disney movies (Frozen: ‘She is dead’ ‘Oh bullshit!’)…or when we went for an early walk on the beach because she had trouble sleeping and we ended up talking about our deepest secrets in life.
I will always treasure those moments and I will always be grateful for my friends’ kindness to invite me despite everything. Saying goodbye to Nana was one of the hardest things. Other than saying goodbye to someone not knowing when and if you’ll see them again, saying goodbye to someone knowing you won’t see them again because they won’t be on this earth anymore is an experience I still can’t seem to find the right words for. I can simply speak from admiration for Nana and my friends for how they handled the situation and I will always carry a piece of her in my heart. Finally, leaving my friends was probably the hardest moment during my trip. They had given me a home and I wasn’t ready to leave. I was so close to telling the bus driver to turn around and cancel my dive trip I had planned for New Years in Cairns…Luckily, I didn’t…
~ Up for some diving at Great Barrier Reef ~