After more than three months in Asia we were excited to move on and go to a western country. Australia was one of the countries we wanted to visit from early on, it was probably on the first list we made back in the summer of 2013. We didn't really know what we would be doing there though and we'd only managed to make plans of where to arrive in and where to leave. Our two and a half weeks would start in Brisbane and end in Sydney, for no particular reason. Looking into this "plan" we finally realized that something was missing. It was the buzz. Until our stay in Indonesia's Labuan Bajo we didn't feel it about Australia. We had had it for months about New Zealand. We weren't really looking forward to staying in cheap dorms and moving around by buses and trains again, we were waiting to get to New Zealand and drive the car we had rented there.
So why not rent a car in Australia as well? That we could not answer and faster than we realized we had emailed Kilroy once again and gotten us a car for two weeks in Oz. That lit the spark right till sparkling! We were arriving on a Sunday and weren't quite sure if the rental place would be open and also our flight left Denpasar at 1.10 a.m., so there wouldn't be much sleep the night before. So we reserved the car from Monday onwards. That left us with a day to explore Brisbane, which we dutifully did even though I at least got almost no sleep on the plane. Energized by the prospect of having a car to carry our things and reminded of our own shaggy appearances by the neatness of the locals we spent the day mostly shopping. I'm proud to stay that I, for once, outdid Sini on the "shop till you drop"-quest. It was a success, as we managed to get most of the things we had on our list while still being somewhat budget oriented. Sini bought jeans for $13 and shoes for $5. Most importantly, to the great surprise of both of us, I found new shoes! I usually buy US sizes 14 or 15, but I managed to stuff my feet into size 13 Converse knock-offs from Target. I felt like one of Cinderella's ugly stepsisters, ready to chop off a couple of toes to get the shiny shoe for just 15 dollars. I also got jeans for $10 which weren't quite long enough but will do. Those were from Target also, same as Sini's shoes and the most important impulse buy of the day: a one liter bottle of SPF 50 sunscreen for $14.95. That's a lot of sun protection…
Outside of the "mall", which is more like a promenade, on Queen Street Brisbane seemed to be a beautiful western city with tall buildings and culture, even on a Sunday. It was very, very pleasant after so much time in the chaos that is Asia. We felt at ease, almost like at home. Sini walked into Specsavers and told them she wanted to have the frame of her sunglasses adjusted a little. Since she'd bought them from a Specsavers in Vantaa they did it for free and wished us a pleasant day. We could understand the labels on groceries! Understanding the Ozzies is still a work in progress though. Their speaking reminded me of the time I first went to the United States as an exchange student and couldn't for a couple of weeks understand a word my "host sister" was saying to me. Even with thorough articulation all I could make out was "Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?"
Those were not with us as we checked into the Yellow Submarine Backpacker Hostel though (I'm finally getting to that…). We're not complete novices with dorm accommodation, we've spent two months in northern Spain walking the Camino to Santiago de Compostela and all of our beds there were found in a room with at least a dozen other people. We've done dorms on different trips with YMCA, I went through nine months of mandatory military service with guys who smelled no different whether they were in the forest or in the barracks. We cope. The Yellow Submarine was unlike any dorm we've seen though. At a glance there's nothing wrong with it, it's clean enough and there are different showers for men and women etc… But the atmosphere was almost eerie. No-one would talk to us and if we tried talking to them all we would get was strange looks. The manager gave us the password to the wifi, but never mentioned that it hadn't been working for some days. No-one seemed concerned about it or keen to even try to fix it. People would just sit in the hallway floor staring at their phones and laptops with glassy eyes, unmoving, not talking to each other. We were placed in different rooms and in Sini's room there were two girls on a bunk bed who never got up. In my room there was a bald bodybuilder watching movies from his laptop (with the sound on) and cooking a whole chicken in the oven. He had it there for hours in low temperature and he got really upset when we and some other person put some things in the oven at the same time. He would check up on his chicken every once in a while, curse our f***ing pizza and go back to his movie. Otherwise the kitchen was silent as a grave, which was strange since there seemed to be at least four things cooking at any one time. People just stood there, staring at a pot of boiling beans… As I'm writing this I could swear the guy next to me keeps typing "All work no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work no play makes Jack a dull boy"!
That's the "Brysonesque" way of putting it. I ran out of Game of Thrones books on Gili Air and had to move onto Bill Bryson's production. I really need to find his Down Under while we're down here. Otherwise I'll have to resort to the free classics that came with our ebook reader. I'll just say this, Robinson Crusoe is just as boring as the sin he likes to contemplate so much… And reading ebooks written by Dostoyevsky or Tolstoy robs you of the one pleasure of reading their work: the part where you slam the brick like volume on the top of the "finished" pile.