Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Bye Bye Byron, Hello Surfers

It was time to leave again. On the go, onto the next place up the coast. That morning, I had said goodbye to Mic over our first proper breakfast. I was honestly sad to say goodbye, but knew somewhere in the back of my mind that we would keep in touch. It's weird meeting people, getting to know them for a couple days, if even, talking about your past and future plans, sharing laughs and visiting new places together, or maybe just having a chat over a beer or sharing a hostel room, and then having to say goodbye. Maybe you become Facebook friends, maybe you will never see them again. I suppose they each come in and out of your life for a reason, making subtle or substantial impacts, and the ones that are meant to will stick around.

I however, still didn't have a plan. I had booked a bus up for later that afternoon to Surfers Paradise as it is one of those places you hear about, but I didn't have very high expectations for it. I heard it was a big party town, like a South Beach for backpackers. I knew it was full of high rises overlooking the beach. I knew it wasn't the best place for surfing despite the name. I knew it wasn't going to be paradise. But it was another place along the coast. Even though I had a bus ticket, I didn't have anywhere to stay and being a Saturday night, it wasn't going to be very easy to find a cheap place to stay especially with "schoolies" starting soon. Schoolies are when the kids, like 17/18 year olds, in school have finished their exams and have a week away somewhere. Since the drinking age in Australia is 18, the bars are all very strict about ID's and it gets a bit out of hand. Anyways, I had to phone the first hostel I found to see if they had availability as I learned, you are unable to book hostels online in less than 12 hours. I was running low on money and started to think out of the box for cheap travel options. I remembered that I had a couch surfing membership and decided to update my profile and to write to some people in Surfers. I did my research thoroughly reading profiles and reviews, looking at their photos and trusting my instincts. Apparently I've been a member since 2008 but I have never actually used it, neither to surf or to host. I decided to give it a go, add another venture to my Australian adventure.

It was raining when I left Byron Bay. A perfect day to leave the beach side town, but I swear they were nature's tears of sadness at our departure. The bus schedule said that the bus would arrive 45 minutes later, which I didn't think was too bad at all! However,  50 minutes into the ride, I was wondering why we were in Coolangatta, where I had thought about stopping off to see the beaches and better surfing, but I don't surf so skipped that stop. I looked down at my computer which had automatically updated and went back in time. I forgot that Queensland didn't change times and was an hour behind. I had another hour to travel. Of course no where in Australia could be a quick bus trip!!

While on the bus, I got an email from a couch surfer I had written to saying he runs a bar crawl around Surfers Paradise and he would take me out. I was honestly quite excited - not about the bar crawl but for a couch surfing experience. Not all couch surfing is about staying somewhere for free; sometimes people just want to see a place from a locals perspective, meet for a drink, share a car ride somewhere...

random bar crawler
I finally arrived in Surfers in the pouring rain, staring up at all the brightly lit high rise buildings, which looked a bit like Vegas through the wet windows. I followed 3 other guys from the bus to the hostel as no one knew where we were going, and arrived to see the bar crawl getting together to go to the first place. I was standing in line to check in and wasn't sure who my couch surfer host was, although I had an idea, I wasn't convinced I wanted to go out and wasn't about to drop my bags and run. After I had settled in my room, which was a bit of a disaster because the three other girls in the room worked and lived there so they had stuff everywhere, I texted Paul and he told me where to meet him. I felt as though I was really going out of my comfort zone, to go meet a stranger amongst a bunch of people on a pub crawl, in a new city I had literally just arrived in in the dark. But the motions kept going and I was just following them. It must have been obvious that I was the awkward person standing at the bar alone "checking" my phone and not talking to anyone as Paul came up and introduced himself. He was so easy to talk to, very chatty banter and a goofy smile, he didn't make the situation uncomfortable at all. Even though he was working, he looked after me all night, making sure I was ok and introducing me to people. He seemed to know everyone in town, even though he had only lived there for 10 months. It turned out to be a fun night - my pink rain coat everyone in Perth and Melbourne kept making fun of me for wearing Finally came in useful! My one night in Surfers Paradise turned into four nights, and again, it was all about the people.

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