Andrea: Feeling great from our beach time in Noosa (and feeling like a holiday within a holiday with our own bedroom and apartment!), we pulled into Brisbane on the Greyhound. We had found a private room for a good price but it wasn't available for the first night of our stay so it was back to shared living for just one night. We booked the cheapest room we could find because, again, it was only one night...how bad could it be? (The previous sentence is a literary device we call "forshadowing". More on this later.)
We checked in and were "upgraded" from the 22 bed dorm (the cheapest room) to an 8 bed dorm. Hurrah! We met the guys in our room and they were all very social and introduced themselves--very different from the usual say-hi-then-ignore routine. We got along well and swapped stories about travelling. Three of the guys (only boys in the room and me) were working in Brisbane and another guy had just arrived and was looking for work. I strained my way through the Irish and Scottish (Glaswegian!) accents and tried to nod and laugh where I thought was appropriate. There was no way of knowing if I got it right, though.
Down in the kitchen we heated up some leftover burger patties we had left over from the apartment. Some people were in the kitchen chatting away in Dutch or Swedish or Swahili waiting for their dinner to cook. They started eyeing our burgers while continuing to chat. Then words I understood like "sandwiches" and "McDonalds" starting sneaking into the gibberish. Hmmm, I thought, they are definitely talking about us and our dinner! Then, as we started eating one of the guys made a disgusted face to his friends after looking at our burgers! I was shocked and a little offended. As those feelings sunk in, their dinner was ready. They started dishing out plain pasta on each of the four plates, one teaspoon at a time. After the meager pasta piles were complete it was time for the sauce. These people had obviously raided the hostel's Free Shelf for this delectable dinner because out came the toppings for the pasta which included, but were not limited to: BBQ sauce, mayonnaise, ketchup, Italian dressing, etc. I also think they were boiling rice for the second course, but after witnessing that I gave them a smug look and thoroughly enjoyed my delicious burger while occasionally shooting questioning glances their way.
We left to find a pub to watch the rugby (France vs. Wales). On the way there we noticed a lot of bars and clubs and people really dressed up; it was Saturday night, after all. We later learned that Fortitude Valley, the neighborhood where we were staying, was known for its nightlife (again, "forshadowing." Please stay tuned). We nabbed a seat in front of a big outdoor screen and grabbed an $8 pint each to last us the whole game. During halftime I popped into the loo and heard a distressed girl desperately trying to get BBQ sauce out of her brand new dress. "It'll be fine," I reassured her as I walked out of the stall. "Thanks," she said, looking at me for the first time. "Hey! I have that same shirt!" she said. "Oh yeah?"
"Yeah. H&M, right."
"Yup. That's right," I replied, smiling a little.
"From like a few years ago, though."
Wow! I hadn't seen a backhand that impressive since Serena Williams' last match!
"Mmmm hmmm....it's...uh...old..." I trailed off, dried my hands on my shorts and sprinted to the door, hoping that the BBQ sauce stain had set and her BRAND NEW dress was ruined forever. Back at the table I came up with a few good comebacks about not bringing new clothes travelling because they tend to get ruined with things like dirt and BBQ sauce, but it was far too late so I just sipped at my beer and laughed.
After the game, we did what any young couple would do on a Saturday night in the hippest area of Brisbane--returned to the hostel and watched "I am Legend" with some girls. Behind us in the common room was a raucous group of Irish people playing drinking games. We could hardly hear Will Smith screaming at a mannequin or the witty banter with his dog over all the debauchery. At some point someone threw a CD at the TV and walked away. He was either telling us to put it in now or after our movie; his intentions weren't clear so we ignored him. After the credits rolled we put the CD in and walked up to our room. There was one guy already sleeping in the room. We hadn't really talked to him; he had walked in earlier and we said hi and he mumbled something back. After he left one of the guys said he was really weird and slept in all of his clothes and another guy said, "Yeah, straight out of prison.". Now, we took that prison crack to be a joke until we walked in to find him not only sleeping in all his clothes--shirt, jeans,TENNIS SHOES, everything--but also clutching a pen close to his chest. Did I feel comfortable being the only people sleeping in a room with a guy holding what all movies and TV shows ever have made clear is a real weapon behind prison walls? No. Was I realistically starting to believe that I might be the first woman to sleep in the same room as him in a very long time? Yes. What was I going to do about it? Yes. Wait, no, what I meant to say was: I slept with a knife under my pillow. Vern laughed, but I was too busy focusing on places that our $.50 knife from Bolivia would be able to pierce. I settled on jugular, put my earplugs in and went to bed.
I have vague memories of waking up every hour or so when people came in and turned on all the lights to find something. OK, that happens on hostels. People are inconsiderate. Not that big of a deal. No, the "Worst Hostel Ever" title started coming into focus around 3:30 when I woke up and realized that the guy under me had brought a girl home. The only beds that had been available in the room were two top bunks on separate sides of the room so Vern was blissfully unaware of this. I had noticed that the guy in the bed below me had hung up a towel on his bunk so you couldn't see in, but I naively thought he was simply drying his towel! Nope. He had built a love nest. Now, if you've never experienced being on a top bunk while there is sex happening on the bottom bunk, fear not! For you are much better off in life, my friend! I will spare you the gory details, but just know I sat there for about an hour while just praying for an end to the erotic earthquake occurring underneath me! I finally got to sleep (after they finished, of course) and about an hour later all the lights in the room were turned on (this is 5:30 for those of you paying attention) and a boisterous group of four or five came barging through the door. Then, the Irish guy starting going up to each bed and individually apologizing to everyone for waking them up, thereby waking them up! I told him very politely to please leave me alone (something along those lines...) and I saw him standing next to the prisoner's bed apologizing to him too. The prisoner also politely told him to please leave him alone (something along those lines...) and I was silently willing him to use his pen on these guys! To my surprise and disappointment, the prisoner did nothing and actually left the room for a few minutes. This reaction was scarier, though, as I'm now convinced he really is fresh out of jail and on probation and had to leave the room to calm down so as not to violate it! The lights on/drunk people screaming in our room/drunk people reciting poetry next to my bed lasted for about an hour. It ended because it almost came to blows over one of our Scottish roommates calling a girl from another room (and friends with all the regulars there) a "whale" and that didn't go over well with her brother, who was also apparently there. The girl got upset but eventually just pulled everyone else out to the hall and left us all in peace, for the most part as we could still hear them through the door. That was about 6:30 for all if you keeping track. Then, the people below me decided to celebrate their departure and went for round 2...while we could still hear the others in the corridor. I got back to bed around 7:00. So, it definitely earned the title "Worst Hostel Ever". Our alarm went off at 9:00 in order to check out by 10:00. Thank God it was just one night, I kept thinking. At 9:00 I made sure to turn on all the lights in a final attempt at revenge, but no one budged. We didn't do anything else for revenge if that's what you're thinking!
Off to our double room! We schlepped our giant backpacks through the humid streets of Brisbane. The bus services were disrupted since it was Sunday so we had to walk the last 30 minutes to our hostel. It was a bit hot. When we got to the hostel we were greeted by the manager Mark and ignored the other residents' introductions to chug water and drop our backpacks wherever we could. Mark led us to our room in the converted garage. We had our own windowless room but had to walk through the dorm to get to the bathroom. It was quite a maze down there and Vern started lovingly referring to it as the "Fritzel basement.' The room was musty with zero ventilation but it was our own so we loved it! An older American guy staying there kept asking us about the ventilation every time he saw us. He said he'd stayed there 2 nights and that was all he could take because it was so musty in there. It turned out he was one of the owner's dad and he really wasn't doing much to help the business. The hostel was owned by 2 guys--a "geek" who worked at a computer fixing company called "Geeks on Call" or something and a goth complete with face piercings, tattoos and long black hair. That would explain why the entire converted house was decorated in black and red. It was managed by Mark, a "fire wielder" which is one who does tricks with fire and available for hire for full moon parties, weddings and Bar Mitzvahs. It was quite entertaining to watch them race around trying to manage the day-to-day runnings of a hostel. It was just made to be a sitcom!
We took the ferry into the city to explore. The goal was to complete the Lonely Planet walking tour of 5km in less than 2 hours so we could get back on the ferry with our transfer ticket and didn't have to pay again. Challenge accepted! The ferry was great because we got to see Brisbane from the river. The city was very pretty and reminded us a lot of London, with on glaring difference--the bright yellow orb floating in the sky that made us squint our eyes and turned our skin brown. What could that be?! We don't have one of those in London! We do, however, have a giant ferris wheel, statues of Queen Victoria dotted around and an area called Southbank, just like in Brisbane. Brisbane's Southbank was beautiful with a purple bougainvillea-lined arch that went on for at least a kilometer along the river's edge. There was a public lagoon for swimming that was packed to the brim with both locals and tourists. Another great public area in Australia! Every city has these wonderful extras that provide entertainment for residents. We enjoyed the walk around Southbank and even spotted a giant gecko on the riverbank! Ah, this is Australia! We jumped back on the ferry and enjoyed eyeing all the giant mansions on the river on the way back to the hostel. We utilised the BBQ and Vern grilled up some delicious chorizo for dinner and we watched the rugby (Australia vs. NZ).
The next day we had more pancakes for breakfast (we're getting used to this!) and I skyped my mom for 2 hours. Then we went up to Mount Co-otha, 7km out of town, for a bit of nature. On the bus on the way we ran into our friends Bob and Karina again! We just see them everywhere! So we made our way as a group up to the top of the mountain (did I mention the bus took us to the summit? No need to walk) and walked the trails swapping stories from the cities where we didn't see each other and from previous travels. It was a good afternoon, but we weren't particularly wowed by the scenery. After taking the trail to J Slaughtery Falls, we realized it was nothing more than a dam with some water flowing below it. We had to admit to our friends that after being spoiled by the scenery in New Zealand that Australia is going to have to try harder than that to impress us. Bob and Karina are going to NZ after Australia so they are excited to see for themselves what we are talking about. After a walk around the Botanical Gardens (every city has one!), we jumped back on the bus for home. We chatted the whole way back to the CBD and said our goodbyes, but quite confident we'd run into them again. Back to our residential hostel for another BBQ dinner of chicken burgers and retired early to our Fritzel basement and searched for the studio audience that was undoubtedly laughing at our sitcom experience of Brisbane.