Saturday, July 28, 2012

A Whale of a Time

Who got a job and abandoned her blog?  That would be moi!

Apologies for sucking at keeping you up to date about my goings on, and I will be better in the future.  I spent the first month of my job absolutely slammed, but life is [back to] normal now so I should have the mental energy to write my thoughts on the interwebz.

First order of business: My job.  OMG, it's amazing.  Ah-may-zing.  It's like the job was tailor made for me.  It is so good!  And ::buffs nails on shirt:: I am good at it!  Two students have explicitly commented on how I'm doing a really good job in such a short amount of time and my boss has said the same.  I remain so grateful for this job and, really, errrything.

Now on to the good stuff!

When we did our tour of Fraser Island we met two girls on our tour whose story is remarkably similar to ours.  They moved to Australia for 2 years for work (at the 2 biggest competitors of Martin's company, no less) a month before we did.  Both are Canadian and I don't even need to explain my feelings about them.  I've never met a Canadian I didn't LOVE!

Many of our other tour mates were skanky 19-year-olds so I consider it fate that we were on the same tour.  Alas, our first Aussie friendship was born!  And most importantly, travel partners were found!

Shortly after we vetted each other as viable friends and not-serial-killers, one of the girls bought a car.  For us that means hitching rides to awesome destinations!  In the last month we have hit up several sweet destinations with the Canadians, in a car affectionately named Snowflake, that legit has this sticker on the back window:

First stop: Byron Bay, New South Wales:

As you can see, it is the most easterly point of the Australian mainland.  Take a good look at this picture because there wasn't many others taken that rainy, cold, miserable weekend.  We were lucky to get decent weather on our first afternoon so we were able to hike up to the famed lighthouse of Byron Bay:

The view from the lookout point was supposed to be ideal for spotting migrating whales but we saw no such thing.  The official whale season started early this year, end of May, but in the second week of June there were none to be seen from this aerial view.  No matter, we planned to take a whale watching boat tour later that weekend.

Yeah, no.  Remember that rainy/cold/miserable part?  That prevented us from going on a whale watching tour.  Or a sea kayaking trip.  Or doing almost every freaking thing outside of cooking in our apartment.  However there was one activity we were able to participate in despite the crappy weather.  Hippie watching!

Second stop, Nimbin, New South Wales

The history of the town of Nimbin is an interesting one.  Back in the 60's (or whenever) there was a hippie dippy music festival in the area.  Then the hippies never left.  The end.

It's an hour and a half drive from Byron Bay, up unmarked mountain roads.  It's a pretty big tourist attraction, especially for those who appreciate herb.  Nimbin is a great place to acquire herb, if you so choose.  Martin was offered some weed from a friendly fellow on the street, to which he replied "Nah, I'm good."  So we did not bring home any smokeable souvenirs.

I found this sign outside of a convenience store particularly hilarious:

In this town, whoever came up with that sign is nothing short of a marketing genius!  Our day trip to Nimbin only reinforced my hatred of/complete jealously of the hippie lifestyle.

Third stop: Springbrook National Park

Quite near Lamington National Park, where we had gone before, is another national park called Springbrook National Park.  The Canadian girls and I (not Martin, he was in far more exotic locations at the time) took a short hike to the Natural Arch, which is basically a river that has broken through the ground and formed a waterfall.

To see scenic mountain views, we had a multitude of lookout points to choose from, and decided we only needed to see one.  We decided to go to the one that was literally called Best of All Lookout because with a name like that, how could others compete?  What an amazing choice we made:

"An impressive outlook", "Best of All" my ass!  You couldn't see 10 feet!  It was actually hard to look at because it was so bright and overbearing.  We had a good chuckle about it and high tailed it out of there because it was freezing!  Probably 40 degrees, because this lookout was literally in the clouds.  You could tell it was wet up there 24/7 because every surface of the forest was covered in moss.

It was the wildest and coolest forest I have ever seen, so the bust of a lookout was totally worth the trip for the cool forest.  I entertained myself by telling passersby on the trail "Best of All my ass".  

Keeping it classy, as always.

Fourth stop: Darwin, Northern Territories

For 2 weeks, Martin was in Darwin for work.  I really, really, really (really, really) wanted to go but the only weekend he was up there was a weekend I had to work.  Oh the trials and tribulations of being employed.

We're both hoping he goes back again sometime, because that place sounds downright awesome.  He saw crocks at a crocodile park:

Took a tour in an amphibious bus, that could both drive on land and float on water:

And, of course, drank copious amounts of alcohol with his colleagues.  Which segues nicely to my next point.

Fifth stop: Ernst & Young Winter Ball

I had never had access to a free photo booth before, much less after a few bottles of wine.  Holy crap was it fun!  I see why people have them at their wedding!

Additionally, I had never been to a corporate event before.  In Norway, spouses weren't ever invited.  Here in Oz, if your spouse pays, they can come. It was so worth it!  There was a mechanical bull (did not try) and an adult-sized bouncy house (did try; kicked ass).  Martin even rented a tux!  It felt like prom all over again.  Really awesome; I can't wait to go again next year.  I'm glad it only happens once per year because my liver will need that long to regenerate.

A few pre-ball sunset shots of our fine city:

Sixth stop: Whale watching

My previous attempts at whale watching have been thwarted by weather not once, not twice, but three times before (in Hawaii, Scotland and Byron Bay)!  I thought I was cursed and destined never to see a whale, and a faulty boat engine on this tour damn near solidified that fact.  However the engine was replaced and we were off to the open ocean to search for whales, glorious whales!

It was amazing.  Nay, totally amazing.  By law, we couldn't get too close to the whales but if they came close to us, well, you can't very well stop nature.

At first we found a pod of 2 whales that didn't do much besides come up to breathe (and shoot water out of their blow holes) every 5 minutes.  Don't get me wrong, it was still cool though.  Then in the distance we saw a pair of whales jumping their entire bodies out of the water (called breaching) so we went and chased them.  By the time we got closer they weren't as active with the acrobatics, but they did flash us their tails a bunch of times as they dove downwards.

It's dang hard to get a picture of a whale, since they come up unexpectedly and in different places.  We were lucky to have gotten the shots we did!  Right now the whales (humpbacks, by the way) are traveling north to give birth in the warm waters of the Whitsundays.  Later this year they'll be migrating back south with their babies, so I totes plan to go again so I can spot some adorable whale babies!

Stay tuned for more travel updates brought to you by Mike Hunt!