09 Jun All Aboard!
I boarded the Oz experience bus on a rainy grey day in Sydney. I have this theory that there is a government conspiracy to make people think it’s always sunny when actually it’s not. Advertising and media coverage would have you believe that everyone sits on the beach topping up their tans and their lives are like in Home & Away or Neighbours. When in fact it rains. A lot. My Mum called me to ask if I was OK because there were bush fires in the news. “No, Mum. That’s in Melbourne, I’m in Sydney.” In fact all I’d heard about was rumours that there were no buses running between Brisbane and Cairns because of flooding. I’d met some people who had actually flown into Cairns to start their East Coast trip, and had to fly down to Sydney and do it the other way round. “Don’t you know its the wet season?” the locals ask when I tell them I wasn’t expecting rain. “Of course bloody not!! In England we assume you all have BBQs in the sunshine, cuddling koala bears and wrestling crocodiles!”
The Oz experience bus i pretty eye catching alright with its bright yellow colour but it’s pretty comfy with leather seats and air conditioning. We were quickly dropped off at the main office to collect our passes and then we were on our way…there was no going back. They like to encourage you to get to know each other on the bus, and you have to play a sort of musical chairs, where when you hear a certain song come on you have to walk around the bus untill it stops, then sit in the first seat you can find and talk to the person next to you. I have no idea what we talked about now, but I can imagine it fitted the usual backpacker formula of “Where are you from, are you finished uni/going to uni, how long are you travelling for etc etc?”
I don’t know how many times we stopped, but at every stop it was the same “So here we have a McDonalds Cafe, there’s a Hungry Jacks or a Subway….” We were SICK to death of fast food. Isn’t there anywhere with real food?? Apparently Australia is one of the most obese countries in the world, and although I only saw skinny people, I can now imagine why that is. It’s probably worth mentioning at this point the names issue in Australia. “Hungry Jacks” is Burger King- god knows why they changed the name for Australian people, but apparently they would be much more receptive to Hungry Jacks than they would be to “Burger King”. They have some weird names for fast food places, including “Red Rooster” and “Chicken Treat”. Can you imagine suggesting going to Chicken Treat for dinner? It sounds like you’d get a bit of a shock… I was also surprised that their main supermarket is Woolworths, because in England Woolworths has gone bust in the credit crunch.
We stopped at a Koala Hospital for a bit of a break, which is full of rescued Koalas needing treatment, and they even have their own Koala Ambulance. Many of the Koalas are suffering from “Chlamydia” and like true juveniles we all chuckled to ourselves every time we heard it. In koalas it causes urinary tract infections and incontinence, so they end up with a condition called “wet bottom”. Nice. No-one will ever forget the lady who worked there, who had blue eyeshadow and pink lipstick and looked as if she had really walked out of Neighbours. I wanted her to be my grandma. She was so passionate about the Koalas, and even did the Koala mating sound for us.
Our destination was Surf Camp. It is mysteriously located at Spot X so I can’t tell you where it is, but the surf lesson is included in the Oz Experience trip. You have to pay a local payment of around 50AUD for your food and accommodation but at least you get the lesson for free. We were allocated cabins, which all looked exactly the same, and boys kept “accidentally” walking in on us getting changed. We were herded like cattle to get our gruel like in a scene from Oliver and then we all gathered round a camp fire with our goon for a bit of a sing song. One of the instructors of course was an ‘aspiring musician’ and continued to sing badly on his guitar and promote his ‘CD’. It’s amazing how, even if they are completely unnattractive, instructors in any discipline soon become sex gods. Girls were sat on the floor right in the instructors face like true groupies.