JoshuasTravels — Notes From A Large Island

Notes From A Large Island

Written by . Posted at 8:41 pm on June 24th, 2005

I remember my first travels – I was so sure that I’d never run out of mime or money. Now I hit the ground running, seeing the cities in as few hours as possible. It’s not as carefree as my early adventures but the OzCash not spent on food and shelter makes up for it.

Surfer’s Paradise:
There’s an OzCity named Surfer’s Paradise. But, between you and me and the rest of the Internet, it oughta be called Shopper’s Paradise. The entire city is a credit card companies dream. It was overcast the day I get into town (of course). Luckily, I was wearing my  Oregon-Lumberjack Flannel shirt (which I got for a steal at the upscale-menswear store in NC). All in all, Surfer’s Paradise was very touristy and while the  surfing looked very good, nobody was riding the waves; they were all shopping it up in the high-rises across the street. The town was full of stores like Gucci and Louie Vutton and Bureberry.

I was able to get my Croc Steak but let me tell you, that was a story. I’ve always loved the Aussies for, among other things, their distinct lack of high-brow culture. I like to think of it like this – France has nearly nothing but culture (“French culture” is, arguably, France’s main export) and Oz has a big hole where culture should be (Oz culture is basically ‘working class culture’ – drinking is very important and pretty much anything is acceptable as long as it is more or less fair dinkum). As an American, I feel such OzCulture is totally awesome. But despite the fact that I’m in anti-France, the matire’d (“waiter” doesn’t seem to describe it) was a real jerk.

I was patronizing The Captain’s Table, a very unAustralian and very snobbery but still croc-serving restaurant.  I was begrudgingly given a seat and it wasn’t until I went to the toilet (they don’t call them “restrooms” here) that I realized I was still rocking the plaid flannel and my hair reflected the overnight train and coach ride. Nonetheless, my money was good, even if the service wasn’t. The croc-meat was as tough as I expected it to be and I waltzed out of The Captains Table feeling good and crossing one more thing off my OzToDo list.

First off, I liked Brissy. It’s not called BrisVegas for nothing – the relaxed atmosphere knocks the socks off Sydney. The weather was incredible: sunny enough for a polo shirt, breezy enough that I never broke sweat.

I checked out the city hall clock tower (for a killer view of the city), I scoped out the Eiffel Tower mock-up (I’ve always said nobody does France like the Aussies), I wandered around the Queen Street Mall (very busy) and the Fortitude Valley suburb (not so busy). I tried to see Parliament-in-action (and was denied for the third time in as many cities – but that’s okay, at least I’ve seen the fierce Question Time bits on TV), I walked along the sweet-as floating Riverwalk (which would move with the waves from passing boats), I ran into Aaron from
Minnesota again (we’d taken the same bus from Surfer’s and spent half the trip swapping stories and tips – he’s studying at Wollongong for six months and if I had more time I’d have loved to go backpacking with him), I had a cheapo McGagwhich (the previous night’s Croc took some of the heft out of my wallet), I did not see the new Batman movie (even though I really really wanted to see it on opening day), and I caught the 7:15PM train to Toowoomba (what? You think I should write something here?).

I rolled into Toowoomba on the late train and the hostel I was planning on crashing at was flashing the No Vacancy neon. Ergo, I wandered into a pub asking for directions to the nearest motel but wound up having a great time with the locals. I figured my luck had finally turned around when one of my new mates (who worked at a Boarding School) reckoned that I could have one of the hundred-odd spare beds (the schoolkids were on vacation).

The regional brew of Queensland is XXXX (pronounced “four ex”) and I drank my first a little faster than prudence allows. Although I remained careful, my successive ales evaporated rather quickly, too and before I knew it it was late and I was tired and the pub was closing. Ergo, I woke up the next morning a bit under the weather and with a 4.5Km walk back into town.

But that’s beside the point, the whole reason I came to Toowoomba was to follow Thomas Fenton’s century-old footsteps. I have now been in every city he missioned in. I got the local church address from the pretty-nifty Temple Locater search feature on, the web’s ultimate source for all things Mormon. The church itself was closed (usually there’s somebody milling about inside) but that didn’t stop me from taking some groovy snaps. I wasn’t too bummed about not being able to peak inside – as much as I would’ve loved to see T-Fento’s name in a book somewhere, I’d probably have better luck just writing to Salt Lake City.

On the whole I liked Toowoomba – it’s a small laid-back country town with beautiful weather. I did catch the 5:45PM showing o f Batman Begins, which def. gets the Josh Fenton Seal of Approval. Somehow, between all the obscure comic references and changing-of-details, I was still left froggin awestruck. It was better than my father’s early morning sourdough pancake breakfasts. No, cancel that. If there’s anything better than some of my Pa’s sourdough brekky, it’s not from this planet. Still, Batman was awe-diddly-some.

Brissy Saturday Markets:
I had a four hour layover in Brissy after Toowoomba, so I jumped over  to their Saturday markets. I’ve been to Saturday markets all over Oz and talked to those who’ve been to ’em all over the world, from New York to Honduras, and I’m proud – proud as punch – to say nothing comes close to the livelihood and sheer insanity of PDX’s Saturday markets.

Less than a week left. It was on my way back from Casino when I started getting the blues. I fully intend to repeat my backpacking experience on another continent, hopefully soon. But the fact remains that this is the last time in a long time that I’ll be able to grab my backpack, catch a train and wake up in some amazing far-away land. I’m absolutely giddy with excitement to see all the people (in both Oregon and Missouri) and cats (well, one in particular) that I love again. And Mexican food (I miss Mexican food a lot more than I ever thought I would). But I’m also somber with the realization of the upcoming lack of autonomy – I’ll likely never again be so free of responsibilities. I’ve buddy-traveled once or twice, just on short hops, but I’ve been largely flying solo, doing exactly and only what I want to, taking the routes I want to take and only worrying about Making Josh Happy and having that be my primary concern..

So the transition back to Oregon and Missouri and My Waiting Life will be difficult. I’ll miss traveling every other week; I’ll miss my OzMates and that unmistakable taste of OzBeer. But I knew that when I signed up. I’m comforted by the memories I’ve got, the pictures I’ve taken, and the words of a wise, wise man: “they’ll never be any doubt that the pleasure was worth all the pain.”

The Oregonian

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