It wasn’t long until my time at the farm was complete. My working routine was over, and with it the simple security of easy living. After 7 weeks picking around 50,000 pineapples (and planting a similar number), I was ready to leave and return to the life on the road.
Summer had arrived, along with the annual wave of humidity that swept down from the north. Additionally (and somewhat unexpectedly), rainstorms started to appear frequently, and would sometimes continue throughout the day. I had a week before Christmas to enjoy a small solo adventure with my car before starting the journey South towards Sydney for the New Year.
Although free campsites in Australia are abundant, they are not glamorous. Still, free land to pitch a tent with a toilet nearby is nothing to complain about. I started the drive, stopping off at botanical gardens and national parks to observe the wildlife. And despite my unfortunate navigational skills, I was steadily heading north.
I had a selection of sleeping arrangements, from hammock, to tent, to car seat. Being the coolest and easiest option, hammock was generally my preference. On clear nights, a starlit sky would be my ceiling. However, on occasion, I would be woken by rain being sieved through my mosquito net onto me, and I would have to hastily construct a tarpaulin roof between the trees. My morning routine would involve travelling to the nearest beach for a swim and shower, before setting my next daily destination.
Rust coloured earth greets you as you move further inland, despite still being far from the true outback. A bird sanctuary in the town of Childers offered me a close up view of Australia’s diverse species, and offered a test of my new camera. From peacocks and parrots to pigeons and owls, they swarmed around the huge dome-shaped structure. The bolder parakeets and parrots would occasionally swoop onto your shoulder, either expecting a snack or just looking free transport around the walkways.
Much of Queensland’s East coast is a stretch of dense, dry forest. The roads gently meander through the land, connecting the small towns together. Some of the most popular towns were just a handful of houses, shops and a petrol station; all nestled against the pristine coast.
Despite the serenity of solo travel, I was looking forward to returning to The Glasshouse Mountains for Christmas with friends. Although I was certainly feeling far from home at this time of year, I was in the same boat as many other backpackers. It was also the last day I would be spending with all those who I had met on the Sunshine coast. Any expectation of a blue sky Christmas on the beach was quickly swept aside by grey clouds and rain in the morning. Still, the whole house of backpackers (17 in total) descended on the booze-laden table, combining the festive traditions from the gathered individuals.
By 5pm, we were given a minor miracle in that the clouds cleared and we had the opportunity to share drinks on the beach that Christmas evening. Rum flowed and the Sun set behind us as we gazed into the Ocean. For me, it was the end of three months on the Sunshine coast. Now the travel would truly start again. The following day, after many hugs and goodbyes, I started the car to head south.
I met initially with Diego, whose car I had been borrowing the past two months, along with a 2 metre tall Scot called Andy and a Brazilian called Yohan (both of whom had answered facebook ads looking for travelmates down the East coast). New Year in Sydney and 2017 beckoned, but first we had a few days to drift down the coast, and take advantage of the unspoilt landscapes around.
After 3 days, we reached Sydney, but continued further south to a campsite in a national park. Upon arrival, we were greeted by several wombats, who grumbled along in search of food dropped by campers. We pitched our tents, attempting to avoid the numerous wombat droppings which were scattered everywhere. I finally managed to open up a bottle of whisky that was a Christmas present from my dad. A touch of luxury in the Australian backpacker hustle that we were living. We perched on rocks with the stars above, and poured from the bottle into some plastic cups I had picked up from a cafe earlier in the day. Sweet whisky aromas rose, along with an essence of vanilla… and wombat. Ah… Australia.