We long expected that Australia would feel like a bit of a letdown after our time in New Zealand. To be honest, we weren’t super excited about visiting here even before we realized how hard it would be to leave NZ, before we knew that whatever place came next would struggle to measure up. Many told us that Australia would seem a whole lot like the States, just with funny accents and, if we were lucky, some koala and kangaroo sightings.
The place is indeed a lot like America, though the differences aren’t as limited as indicated above. For example…LOTS of fast food, but sometimes happier (?) versions.
Many Big Box stores, but no Mattress Discounters, instead Forty Winks.
A national auto obsession, but unlike at home one that still includes many El Caminos.
Though skeptical it would prove a true travel adventure, it seemed wrong to come so close and not even see the land of Oz. Plus, we really do like koalas.
William rescuing Phoebe’s Tony the Koala, who she managed to leave on the rock after a climb in Wanaka.
So we planned a 3 week stop (which reduced itself to 2 when we extended our time in Wanaka) and decided to focus the time on a small sliver of the massive country, its own continent. This has generally been our MO on the Trip: resist a Clark Griswold instinct to tag all the big ticket spots and instead try to really get to know one or two places in each country we visit. Hence, a month in Spain that never brought us to Madrid, Barcelona, or Basque Country, but had our kids so comfortable with downtown Sevilla that they could skateboard the markets and navigate themselves to the best tapas joints all on their own.
For Australia, we chose as our focus Queensland’s storied Sunshine Coast. We figured we’d drown our longing for NZed’s beautiful (but admittedly chilly) mtn peaks in this iconic, sundrenched land of beachtime fun. We’d surf, snorkle, scuba, and maybe even oogle a beach volleyball match or two.
So far, that vision hasn’t materialized. At all. Apparently, the Ozzie gods didn’t take kindly to our relatively low expectations for this part of the trip. Upon our arrival, and almost as if to punish a bad attitude, Queensland’s reliably blue skies turned an ominous gray then opened to torrents of hard driving rain.
The kind of rain that seems like it might let up… only to start pounding even more insistently. The kind of rain that makes the nice Aussie weather lady on the telly shake her head and chuckle with sympathy for the holidaymakers who chose this week of “recordsetting rain” to come to the beach. She was talking about us.
I would be lying if I said the downpour didn’t dampen some already flagging spirits.
With the relentless rain, we missed Big Phoebe and Wanaka even more than we had before. Stuck in a cramped, drab beach condo, we tread on each others’ nerves like we hadn’t in weeks.
And, seven months into near constant togetherness, Brendan’s and my tired tricks for lifting spirits were falling decidedly flat.
Brendan cheerfully suggested we surf despite the rain. (“It’s not like you don’t get wet surfing anyway…”) But the kids pointed out there was also thunder and lightening. (“Do you want us to get electrocuted or something?”) I called for a Bananagrams tourney. (“You guys love that game. And it’s educational!”) But Little Phoebe rightly asked what good this would do her. “Mommy, don’t you even remember that I can’t even read?”)
In the end, there was little to do but acknowledge that the rain was a big bumner-period; to admit that everyone was a little glum and frustrated-including the grownups; to remind ourselves that, nonetheless, we were incredibly lucky to be together in a cool place; and then to use our God given talents to make the most of it-which we did.
When the kids realized Brendan and I needed just a few minutes of quiet, they took their skateboards to the parking garage below the condo. Not quite Seville, but a smooth skating surface.
When a few minutes didn’t suffice, Brendan amd I extricated ourselves for long, rainy runs. The best route took us to Byron Bay Lighthouse, which overlooks the eastern most point of mainland Australia. Gorgeous even (maybe especially) in the rain.
A visit to The Farm at Byron Bay, where the rain makes the mud puddles that much better.
Perhaps best of all, a desperate Trip Advisor search led us to Byron Bay’s School of Circus Performing Arts. Trapeze was our focus. And it was awesome.
Dark inside the circus tent, especially when it’s gray outside, so the photos aren’t great. But this gives you the idea.
Eventually our patience paid off. The sun showed itself now and then that first week …
… and so did the kangaroos and koalas (at least at the wildlife sanctuary).
And when we finally made it to the waterpark, it didn’t matter much that rain started to threaten again … because we had already gotten really wet anyway.