Brisbane City  

Arriving in Brisbane we instantly booked into the YHA and set off for Jucy rentals. Although the hostel costs slightly more than any other it really is worth it. You don’t need a deposit for your key or your cutlery and it’s always clean and tidy. By far the best hostel chain in Australia. 

  

We arrived at Jucy Rentals half way across town, the young man who served us unfortunately hadn’t been forewarned that four very angry young women would be dropping off their campervan that day. He seemed slightly perturbed after he suggested that we would need to be filling up the petrol as it was stated in the contract. Evidently he had never faced the wrath of the Irish before and was told in no uncertain terms, ‘I’m not going to lie to ya mate, but we aren’t filling up the tank.’ After a quick word with his manager we were sent off with our refund and probably a sigh of relief from Jucy. The poor guy! 

The next day was St. Patrick’s Day!! It’s better than Christmas, New Year and your Birthday combined. It was a slightly odd affair as this year I would spending it with people who normally wouldn’t celebrate it. We started the morning with a hearty Irish breakfast and a few pints in the pub aptly named Irish Murphys. We ended up spending the majority of the day there with Irish traditional music and others celebrating the occasion. 

For me it was a bit of a roller coaster, with being so far from home and the only Irish person in the group I ended up wishing I was in Belfast again. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Paddy Englishmen and if it hadn’t of been for them I wouldn’t have enjoyed the day one bit; but it would have been nice to see a familiar Irish face. I didn’t realise how much I missed the comaradarie of having someone around who completely understands both your accent and your culture. Or even the enormity of the day that is St. Paddy’s Day. We might all live fairly close geographically but our cultural diversity is unmistakable. 

  

The majority of our time in Brisbane has been mixed between, job hunting, apartment hunting and experiencing the nightlife. Along the way though I have grown to like the city. So many people advised me to skip it along the coast but when we all get some work I imagine we will be able to make the most out of what Brisbane has to offer. 

  

The man made beach in the centre of the city is incredible when you are there. Although many would say lack of a natural beach is a downfall we rather enjoyed spending time in some water where you weren’t trying to avoid the crashing waves. Lying on sand in a bikini surrounded by high rise buildings is certainly an experience. 

Another great thing about staying in the YHA or any of the hostels on Upper Roma Street is that the Sunicorp stadium is literally around the corner. So on game day we walked to the ticket office and bought a ticket for the Brisbane Roar game against league leaders Wellington from New Zealand. We were all pretty excited (the guys and myself especially) to get watching some football. 

  

With Wellington leading 2-1 after 75 minutes, only we could have attended a football match in Australia and see it abandoned due to a water logged pitch! Regardless Brisbane Roar are my Australian team whilst I am here. It seems only fair since it was the first live game I’ve seen in Australia and with the stadium practically empty it seems they need all the support they can get.  

 

Hopefully we all can find somewhere to live and work soon and settle for a month or two before continuing our travels; but with a decent nightlife and roof top pool with stunning views I can’t say I am in a rush to move just yet. 

  

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Surfers Paradise and saying good bye to Jucy

 

 After all our trouble with Jucy rentals we decided we needed a break from the van for a while. Having researched some nearby hostels in surfers paradise we discovered that renting out an apartment would work out around the same price. So we booked into Surfers Del Ray apartments and hit the jackpot with a newly renovated apartment, it certainly was paradise. 

  

Described to me as the Australian Magaluf, Surfers Paradise is a party town with a host of clubs and theme parks yet very little else. The majority of high rises were designed as accommodation and there was very little opportunity to find any work.

As a group we decided to enjoy ourselves and participated in a variety of club crawls and visited each of the theme parks. When we booked our club crawl we got ripped off by the stalls on the street so ask your hostel for the best deals and how to find them. 

The first theme park we visited was Sea World which was a great day out. We got to see a whole host of sea animals and they offer a range of activities such as swimming with sharks. Unfortunately we narrowly missed the time we could do this and it was booked out so ring in advance to secure a place. 

   

     

The second theme park that was worth a visit was Wet n’ Wild. Great for thrill seekers there was a huge range of slides and rides to go on. The best water ride was definitely the Aqualoop, An Aqualoop is a type of body water slide where single riders are dropped down a near vertical slide and into an inclined loop. Your heart is in your mouth every time the floor is taken from beneath your feet.  

There’s a non water ride called the sky coaster where you pay an extra $20 to be flung through the air from the height of 167 ft. Wearing a harness you have to fall forward until you lying vertical and then the start to hoist you up to the top. On the ride, riders in groups of 1 to 3 are winched to the top of a launch tower and then dropped towards the ground, swinging from a cable tether back and forth until brought to a rest. Definitely worth the extra cost. 

   

 

The final theme park we visited was Movie World, the home of some great roller coasters, such as Arkham Asylum,  Green Latern coaster and the Superman Escape. Surprisingly the best ride was the Scooby Doo Spooky Coaster, starting off as a lame ghost train and turning into a fast and exciting thrill ride, it was by far the most fun. 

  

  

Following ten days of partying it was time to leave the Gold Coast and head for Brisbane. We were sad to leave but the best part about going was knowing we would be saying goodbye to our Jucy rentals nightmare camper van. After weeks of hardwork talking to the company they had finally conceded and would allow us to return the van early and give us a refund for the remaining days we would have had it. It was the best we could have hoped for. Although we missed our trip to Fraiser Island as a result, we were just glad to leave Jucy Rentals behind. 

Realising we no longer had any time restraints to make it up the coast we have decided to stay in Brisbane for a while and get some work done. In fairness a two month holiday is long enough. 

When in Nimbin…

The strangest hippie town in Australia was our next stop. We had been previously told that it was either a place you would love or hate, but either way it was somewhere we needed to see. 

Wanting to get the full experience and escape the confines of the van for a night, we booked into the Nimbin Rox YHA where we would actually be staying in a teepee. On top of that it was my birthday so when we left Byron Bay the girls had filled the van with balloons and a banner, which was a nice touch to the day. 



We arrived in Nimbin and parked in front of our home for the night. We knew we had been deprived for two weeks when sleeping on a mattress on the floor in a teepee seemed like luxury. We were shown around the hostel where our host kindly pointed out where we could and could not smoke (not tobacco). The hostel was a pretty laid back place with bean bags and hammocks lying around and a twenty four hour pool. As we were guided around the unmistakeable aroma of incense mixed with weed greated us. 



Having got our bearings we ventured the short distance into town to have a look around. 

We had arrived in the sixties!

Not that I would know but I just assume that Nimbin is exactly the way it would have been at that time. Stuck in a time warp the locals walked around with no shoes or shirts on and kindly offered you weed, mushrooms and cookies (not the chocolate chip kind) at the side of the road. 



In earnest it was a stoners dream but for us, we just didn’t get it. How could a whole town very openingly engage in such activity and to be left to it by authorities, it all seemed strange, cool but strange. 



We somewhat dabbled in the local trade and returned to our teepee for the night. I’d never smoked weed before and quickly discerned that it wasn’t for me. Fairly opposed to smoking not only was it horrible but it didn’t have any effect. (Sorry mum and dad) An experience all round but not one I would rush into again. Not only that but I was pretty ill at the time and turned in early to get some well needed rest. I’ve had better birthdays. 



Nimbin was definitely an experience and another place I would recommend every traveller to visit. You might love it or hate it but it’s certainly somewhere that you need to see for yourself. 

Van trouble in Byron Bay

The next lap was Byron Bay. The notorious chilled out town in Australia, where life is relaxed, laid back and appreciated. With a chilled out vibe radiating round the city it would be difficult to stress out about anything here. 



With a decorative nightlife, beautiful beach and gorgeous views from the cape lighthouse Byron Bay has so much to offer for a weary traveller. Great eaterys line the streets catering for everyone, as well as plenty of travel agents competing to sign you up for the best activities in Australia, shop around and haggle to avoid being ripped off. There is also a great shopping scene with small boutiques scattered around town it was tough not spending any money when you’ve been wearing the same clothes for a month. 



The locals are a colourful collection of travellers and Australians who live for the surf and the health foods that can be easily located throughout the town. Even car trouble couldn’t upset or relaxing week in Byron Bay, with days spent on the beach and nights spent in the clubs it was a great week. Byron Bay was certainly somewhere I would visit again or even consider living, anyone visiting Australia needs to spend some time there. 



Unfortunately the Jucy van had become a complete nightmare. With the ‘penthouse’ closing sporadically, the battery continued to die every morning, we ended up spending a lot of our time trying to sort out our engine trouble. We were told by mechanics that the fridge would drain the battery, a light on the dashboard because the doors were open would drain the battery. Basically using the vans facilities would drain the battery. It soon became clear that the van was pretty inhospitable. It slowly began to taint our trip with unpleasantness. So for anyone considering a camper van trip, I say go for it!! Just don’t choose Jucy Rentals. We felt that they had given us the dud van, which we soon christened ‘The Shit Tip.’

Don’t get me wrong the freedom of travelling in this manner is second to none but choose a good spacious van. Don’t let travel agents sell you short, do research first. 

Next stop: Nimbin. 



Four Slags in a Van

The next adventure on our Bunac working holiday turned out to be a six week trip up the East Coast from Sydney to Cairns in a camper van. Pardon the crude title but it is the name we have currently crowned ourselves in jest and I couldn’t leave it out. 

On Thursday 19th Febuary we set off from our hostel carrying our luggage in search of Jucy Camper Van Hire with whom we had booked the ‘grande’ option they offered. Catching the bus from the Railway station after being shouted at by a very angry bus driver (why are they all so angry!!) we set off to get our van. 

Or so we thought…

After about three stops and clearly no idea where we were going, we had reached the end of the line. 

Wrong Bus You Idiots!!!

Not the best start to our adventure considering we would need a good sense of direction if we ever hoped to get to Caurns and we couldn’t even get out of the city centre. 

With our tails between our legs we got back on the same bus with Mr Angry the Busman and eventually found the hire shop. 

When the ‘Grande’ pulled up it became apparent that getting four girls into the van including all of our luggage that this was going to be a cosy journey. 



After a quick tour round the van, the main driver was handed the keys and directed to give it a test drive. Id like to give Jucy a little advice; probably not that best idea to park two of your rather expensive vans fairly close together.  After a dubious start. nearly accelarating into another camper we were off. 

Next stop: Port Stephens

Arriving rather late at a nature reserve/Camping ground we met with fellow BUNACers who were staying there. Here’s a tip kids: Unless you want to be woken by a very angry man banging on your van windows and telling you to leave; don’t park illegally. 

I know, I know, we are really stupid, but the reception was closed, we had no where else to stay. We are four young girls in a bright green and purple van which is hardly discreet. We needed somewhere safe to sleep, so it was worth a try!!

It turned out that the guy was really understanding and he ended up letting us stay. The best bit was the reserve had a resident Kangaroo named Josie who loved to be scratched under the chin and a few possums who liked to chill out around the shower blocks. Bit odd brushing your teeth with a possum watching you though. 



Port Stephens turned out to be a fairly small town although it offers plenty of activities such as jet skiing and whale watching. As a group we decided that we would like to go dolphin watching and booked it for the following morning. The boat had a boom net and a slide that launched you into the sea. We were kids again. 

As for the dolphins we seen quite a few but at a distance as they had learnt to avoid the boats. I would recommend going for the more expensive option and swimming with them if you want the full experience. 



We then moved on to Coffs Harbour, unfortunately we caught the tail end of the bad weather that had been moving through Australia at the time. We made it to the beach once but it wasn’t sunbathing weather. The only other attraction Coffs Harbour seemed to offer was a big banana, it was as weird as it sounds. A good day out for kids with a small water park and toboganning, as a group of twenty year olds we weren’t overly impressed. 



We decided to stop off in Yamba next just for one night and managed to find a very well equipped camp site. The site had two swimming pools that were great for just chilling out, it made a nice change not being covered in sand for days from the beaches. That night we walked to the local pub and had a meal looking out over the harbour. 

It had been a very relaxing start to our camping trip and after a few days we were looking forward to reaching the notorious Byron Bay and doing some more partying.