Tiia and I were blessed with Italian music on the drive from Eungella to Seventeen Seventy, Umberto and Matthieu completely in their comfort zone. On this journey I noticed how the landscape in Australia is lower and wider than in the UK; in some ways the cultures are so similar, with attitudes and behaviour not being worlds apart, but the scenery is so vastly different and captivating.
We arrived into Agnes Water at 1pm but continued on to 1770 (which is, more often than not, spelt numerically rather than alphabetically) where there isn’t actually much going on in the way of surfing and hostels as it is a national heritage site. We therefore drove 10 minutes back in the opposite direction to Agnes Water, where we then drove around for approximately an hour to various accommodation options and deliberating (with difficulty, being 6 of us involved) as to where to stay. We eventually settled on Cool Bananas – a hostel that cost us $12.50 each (£7.60) per night, just for Tiia and I to sleep in a tent and the guys in their respective vehicles, but one which felt worth it with the hostel facilities of wifi, a huge kitchen equipped for self-catering, decent toilets and showers, a lounge area plus free tea and coffee. Besides the only other decent/reasonably priced option was a campsite at $6 each away from the centre, and it tends to feel more like a rip-off paying for something you can get for free and do every night anyway rather than paying double for extra facilities and a hostel/social environment. Plus I really needed some downtime and to be able to easily walk around and explore freely – something I hadn’t been able to do since Cairns as we have been staying in the outskirts for free camping.
ANYWAY, I spent the afternoon with Tiia – while the boys went off to eat and – walking around the quaint town and little beachside shops, treating myself to a chai frappe (which I should have known wouldn’t be great considering it wasn’t a listed option and instead made spontaneously at my request; really nice of them but utterly tasteless and at $6.50 AUD it really wasn’t worth it). We then wandered over to The Tavern for Pig Racing, where you can bet 30/40 dollars on a specific pig or buy raffle tickets for the potential of having your ticket drawn for one of the leftover pigs. We arrived just as they were doing the draw and then witnessed my very first pig race – incredibly bizarre but also rather entertaining. Only in Straya.
Tiia and I then walked to a sunset lookout point a short walk from the hostel; off a dirt track and through the forest up to some rocks above the sea. It said it was a 4km walk but it wasn’t even close to that; honestly, firstly Asia with their sense of time where everything is “just 10 minutes” and then takes an hour, now Oz with their exaggerated sense of distance. But at least we were pleasantly surprised, right? The view from the rocks was really beautiful and with water crashing against the rocks below it felt very romantic – so naturally we spoke about being in our late twenties and a therefore a disappointment to our parents for not having settled down 🙂
That evening, a few guys staying at the hostel who fish as a sport and caught two massive tunas (I honestly had no idea they were so big!) and kindly barbecued them for everyone staying at the hostel to have, so my dinner was freshly-caught tuna steaks with a delicious pasta salad they had also made; it was without a doubt the best tuna I have ever had, so so tasty and fresh and meaty. I then decided to Facetime my mum and step dad (which, as it turns out, was the first time in over two months) and burst into tears as soon as I saw their faces, with me and my mum continuing to cry randomly throughout the entire conversation. Ugly tears aside, it was so nice to be able to slow down for a bit and be “normal” with them.
The following morning we had signed up for a Gnarly Tours surf lesson at 20 dollars each for a 3-4 hour group session (we left around 10:40am and got back around 3pm). All bundled int a car, Lorenzo (the guy who runs the tours) drove us and our equipment to the top of the beach where we then put on our rash vests, painted our faces, threw a towel over our shoulder to rest the surfboard bag on and walked down to the beach; it was actually a lot further down than it looked and the surfboard was ridiculously heavy to carry, as well as difficult to negotiate with the front swinging out in front of you or the whole thing banging against the side of your leg. Honestly I felt tired before we even started.
We then had a lesson on how to surf while on the sand, being instructed on what to do, how to balance and how to fall – slight information overload, which hurt my brain. We then tried out standing up on the board from laying on the sand, which I mastered pretty quickly despite having ridiculously bad balance simply with walking; I wasn’t convinced it would be much better on the open water. We then carried our boards down to the waters edge, the wind pushing against the surfboard and away from me; it was absurdly hard to carry and not smack someone in the face.
We then took it in group turns to wade out to sea, jump on the surfboard and paddle towards the waves, before then turning around and continuing towards Lorenzo and his assistant Quinto, who would then hold onto your board and prepare you for the wave. I didn’t manage to stand the first few times I attempted it (the waves were not that strong and, as mentioned, my balance and upper body strength are pretty poor) but fortunately the time I had a GoPro on my board I successfully managed to stand up for all of, ooooooo, 3 seconds maybe, not quite nailing the pose but at least getting myself up!
I really wasn’t a natural and it was actually pretty exhausting – pushing through the wind whilst carrying your board; wading through the waves; paddling against the water with huge waves crashing into your face and water pouring into your mouth and up your nose; keeping yourself afloat as you wait for a wave to carry you forwards and then trying (and often failing!) to stand. But I kept trying, really enjoying it anyway and so desperately wanting to get better at it. Absolutely knackered, I then had to carry the board back up the hill with it smacking against my left leg and my body in tatters, but I felt proud.
Later, a few of us spontaneously drive into 1770 for sunset, hastily purchasing 5 coronas and lime wedges from the Beach Hotel and walking to the rocks. It was so peaceful and beautiful and I am starting to find myself falling in love with harbours. I then picked up a bottle of chilled sparkling Shiraz for $10 (£6) to have with dinner, naturally drinking most of it before I ate and feeling pretty drunk as I sat down to watch Troy in the lounge. Perfect chilled evening after an active day.
We drove back into 1770 in the morning as Matthieu and Umbi wanted to fish, dropping Tiia and I off at the beach on their way to the rocks at the end of the bay and saying they would be back to get us Midday/1ish. So Tiia and I spent the next few hours lounging on the beach and having some peace before heading to the car park to be picked up where we ran into Toby and Rasmus; they had joined Umberto and Matthieu, whom told the guys they would be another 30/45 minutes. Well an hour passed and they still hadn’t arrived, and then all of a sudden we see their campervan…drive straight past us. Awesome. Once they eventually came back to collect us, after having to be reminded, they were immediately making jokes about the situation (ah, Italians!), with us finally making it back to the hostel at 2:40pm leaving us with one hour to eat, shower and leave.
The guy that Umberto and Matthieu were fishing with had caught a tuna and kindly let us take some steaks with us, so on the drive to Bundaberg I asked Matthieu for more information about the “guy who caught the tuna” and he thought I asked about a cappuccino; ah the joys of language barriers! On the way we ended up stopping suddenly at the side of the road for amazing views of the sun setting; one of the perks of travelling the east coast in your own way (along with the joy of being able to stop and pee on the side of the road, grabbing some loo roll as you dash out the vehicle and jogging a few metres away to clamber through the bush…)