Friday, March 16, 2012

Camping on Straddie

The first weekend after Martin started work some of his coworkers went on their annual camping trip, and we were graciously invited along. They had no idea if we were serial killers or not, so it was nice of them to invite us. This meant that Martin's first Friday, only his fifth day of work, he left the office before noon.

HOLLA at the Australian work ethic!

Our destination was Stradbroke Island, known by the locals who don't pronounce a full world unless they absolutely have to, as Straddie. It's not too far east of Brisbane, in the Pacific Ocean and is the second largest sand island on the planet. If you wish to learn which is the largest I suggest you stay tuned to this blog.

We navigated ourselves via taxi and a coworkers borrowed-from-parents car to the coast and, this being an island, had to take a 45 minute ferry to get there. The ferry was pretty similar to the Moss to Horten ferry which Martin's parents house looks right onto. And like the Moss to Horten ferry, they should just build a freaking bridge already.

Once we got to the camp site we pitched our tent (we were living rough, you see) and took a leisurely 2 minute stroll to this:

The ocean! We could hear the waves beating the whole time. It was awesome. We didn't dive in immediately since it was getting dark quickly. It's crazy how early it gets dark in this country/hemisphere. By 7 p.m. it's pitch black.

As Martin and his coworkers headed into town to pick up dinner and drinkin' supplies I stayed back with his manager's two kids, aged 9 and 6. Please note I had met these kids just prior to boarding the ferry, so I had known them and their father (and they, me) for roughly 1.5 hours.

HOLLA at Australians still having faith in humanity!

The kids were dying to go down to the beach and "catch crabs" and I couldn't very well win this battle of wits so I agreed, even though "catching crabs" is usually something I work to avoid. Here is one such caught crab:

All over the beach were patches of these teeny tiny balls of sand, which the kids informed me were made by the crabs digging. Or something. They are 6 and 9, I get my nature knowledge from David Attenborough, not them.

They were a hoot, though, I really liked those kids. Watching them run around the camp site and beach reminded me of my own gleeful youth camping at Icelandic State Park and swimming at Renwick Dam. This is my second mention of that glorious place, and I hope to work it in to most, if not all, of future posts.

Here are several caught crabs in a pan because, you know, you want sand insects on something that touches your food (no permission was sought or granted to put them in there):

The crabs were super teeny tiny, probably about the size of a cricket. There were frogs of that size on the beach, also, and they were so cute! I'll throw a picture of one of those on here. It's appropriate since 95% of Friday night was focused on tent pitching, food grilling and wildlife, and the animals were the most blog-worthy part:

Saturday we were up earlier than I think I've ever been on a Saturday, the clock was actually a.m.! I'm surprised we didn't get smoked out of our tent by sun and heat, as one usually does, but after a night of nothing but a thick sleeping bag between you and the uneven, hard ground you're ready to get up and start your day.

First we slipped, then we slapped, then we slopped. This is how Aussies remind each other to wear sunscreen and not get skin cancer and die. I'm a huge fan of this method so I slip, slapped, slopped - a lot. Then we went to the beach!

The water was great. So green! So wavey! Some of the waves were huge. Well, huge by my frame of reference (Renwick Dam).

See those 2 flags in the picture above? You're supposed to swim between them, so Pamela Anderson can see you and rescue you in slow motion if need be. The swimming area wasn't huge but there were people swimming/surfing outside of the lines. Those people flirt with danger. I bet they don't slip slap slop.

By 11 a.m. everybody was making their way back to their camp site to escape the midday sun. We had snatched up the one little patch of available shade on the beach but with the sun overhead, that was long gone. It was time to seek shelter. And booze.

Someone (not me, I swear) had the brilliant idea of cracking open a bottle of wine at 11 a.m. Who am I to say no to this? So we spent the rest of that afternoon - and evening - doing this:

Bundaberg is a town a few hours north of here in the state of Queensland, and the Bundaberg company makes rum and ginger beer, both of which are delicious. I had never even heard of ginger beer until I moved to the UK and I'm not sure if it's because I live in a bubble or if it doesn't exist in the U.S. It's kind of like root beer, but gingery. I love it. If you have never tried ginger beer, hunt it down and try it. Delish.

We planned an actual meal for that evening, and walked less than 10 minutes through this gorgeous sunset to the restaurant:

Martin's company *may* have sponsored our drinks during this meal. Group morale or team building or some such thing. This company is clearly too big to remain sober. As is often the case in situations like this I wound up with a bottle of wine in my purse as we left. That poor thing didn't last a half an hour.

We finished off the evening uneventfully, since we had been drinking for roughly 12 hours. So we hit the hay to sleep it off. Until a screeching kookaburra woke us up before dawn. It must've been right outside the tent because it was SO loud. Have a listen, and imagine waking up to that. In the pouring rain.

Ugh. Bird aside, nothing sucks worse than being in a tent in the rain.

It pissed down on us, which meant we had to pack up our tent and belongings (such as beach towels that sat outside all night) soaking wet. It suuuuucked.

Straddie being a popular weekend destination you have to book in advance the ferry that you are planning to take on and off the island. We had to pack up our tents and leave the camp site by 10 a.m. Our ferry wasn't booked until 2 p.m., which suuuuucked.

We killed some time at a snack bar that, I kid you not, was run by a 10 year old child. The service was about as reliable as one could expect from a 10 year old child, so that actually killed a lot of time. Then the highlight of the weekend happened. Scratch that, it could very well be the highlight of our entire life in Australia.

We drove down to the ferry port to see if we could get ourselves onto an earlier ferry. The dude directing traffic at the port is what I can only describe as THE quintessential crazy Outback Australian. And I do mean crazy. Maybe flamboyant is the word I'm searching for, but not in that way.

Martin whipped out his iPhone as we approached him because we knew this would be an encounter worthy of recording. We were not wrong.

Watch the video here (sorry, having problems getting an embed code to work).

I will transcribe the first half of the video for those who can't view it or don't understand what the hell he is saying. Crazy Australian dude will forever be known as Crikey Man, and is abbreviated as CM below. For reference he's checking with the boat to see if they've got room for 1 more car.

CM: I think they're full, just wait, just wait a second.
Coworker: We're small! We're tiny!
CM: *unintelligible* Just one bloody more! Crikey! Get us on, we're only small.
Coworker: We're the smallest car in the queue.
CM: [speaking into walkie talkie] They do have prawns, they do have and prawns, in the boot.
Coworker: Um....
Me: Rum.
Coworker: Shapes [shitty rip-off Cheez-Its]? Pringles? We have beer.
Me: I got rum.
Martin: Lots of rum.
Coworker: We do have rum.
CM: The captain likes rum. All captains like ruuuum.
Coworker: That's true.
CM: *unintelligible* Sorry girls. And boys...

The rest is him crushing our dreams, informing us that we were the first car that can't fit on to that ferry. So we had to wait another 2 hours to catch our regularly scheduled one. Le sigh.

Crikey Man reminded me of Steve Irwin, may he rest in peace, in his general over excitement and jovial attitude about life. But at least Steve Irwin had something worth being excited about, this guy was just directing traffic! He was awesome and I hope to meet many, many more crazy bastards like him.

Our wait for the ferry wasn't all bad. By this time the rain had stopped and the sun returned so we took out all of our tents and sleeping bags and anything that was soaked, laid them out, and let them dry. 2 hours in the midday Australian sun dried everything right up.

Martin's manager (the one crazy enough to trust me with his kids) had a super cool "camping trailer" that starts like this:

And folds out to this:
He had a ton of extra camping gear and was kind enough to give us a tent and four sleeping bags!

This means we're pretty much obligated to go camping again soon and utilize our new gear. Wherever shall we camp next?!

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