Great Ocean Road-Day 1

12Apostles

When I woke up at 5am I was disappointed to see our clothes were not in the hallway. A few minutes later I was happy I didn't feel hungover or queasy from last night's beer. After I washed my face and brushed my teeth I decided to send Jen a text and let her know we'd be leaving in 30 minutes and that we needed our laundry.

 

After putting on my make-up and clothes I gave Jen a call but unfortunately got her voicemail. Matthew was starting to panic but I told him we didn't have much other option except to leave her a note with some money to mail our clothes to Kangaroo Island.

After zipping my suitcase and checking the hallway once more with no sign of Jen, I pulled out a piece of notebook paper and wrote a letter to Jen explaining our early exit. I looked up the address to the Seal Bay Cottages and wrote that on the paper too. I asked Matthew how much cash he had on him and he handed me a ten dollar bill. I stuck that to the paper and put it in the middle of the desk where she wouldn't miss it. We then grabbed our bags and headed for the door.

 

It was 6 in the morning and we were heaving huge bags uphill. By the time we got to the bus stop I was breathing heavy and feeling sticky. We sat at the bus stop for about 2 minutes before Matthew checked his app and decided we needed to be somewhere else. He said the listings had all changed since he looked at it the night before. I looked at the app myself and decided he was right, we needed to be at a bus stop about 200 meters away so we gathered our things and headed towards the next stop. When we got there the app directions changed again and said the 207 bus would not be at that stop until 6:47. We needed to be in front of the greyhound office by 7:15 so that was cutting it a little close. We decided to wait for another bus and then ask that driver if there was another route into town.

After ten minutes went by we had seen several taxis and no busses. We checked to see if the busses were even running this early but we couldn't find a clear answer. About that time Matthew saw a taxi and waved it down. I think we were both sick of this bus business and also a bit worried about missing the greyhound.

 

The taxi driver was Indian and very friendly. I gave him the address and he started off in that direction. After we had driven about a mile I looked at the meter and saw it was at $8.45. I felt sick.  It wasn't just the money that made me sick, I actually felt sick. The taxi driver was a fast and furious driver and he had been braking and gasing fiercely. I hadn't ate breakfast thankfully but I was getting dizzy. It was still dark outside and the lights whirling around me only made my stomach turn more. I was beginning to sweat so I leaned forward and asked the driver to turn on the air. He asked if I wanted hot or cold and I said I definitely needed cold.

 

I hated this. I didn't want to get sick in a taxi. Surely my body could control itself for a few more minutes. We only had about 10 more minutes until we would be at Southern Cross Station and from there it was a mere two blocks to the greyhound office. I sang comforting songs in my head and prayed the nausea would leave me alone. With no ease in discomfort I unzipped the top pocket of my purse and reached for the gag bag that Matthew had thoughtfully picked up from the last plane ride we were on.

 

I told myself the bag was just precautionary and that I wasn't going to need it. I was going to be fine. I was going to make it to the station. The lights whipped around my eyelids in a dizzy blur and I closed them tighter. Sweat glistened on my skin and my body began to shake. Oh, no. I thought, please don't. I opened my sack and my stomach contracted just as my mouth went in the bag. I gagged a couple times before getting some belly juice up. I felt awful. I hated this part, but then again neither Matthew nor the driver had even turned around to look. Had they even noticed? Maybe I got away with it this time.  Maybe I was the only one who had to deal it.  

I tried not to make a big deal about it.  I spit into the bag and reached for a kleenex from my purse.   As I wiped the corners of my mouth I noticed the driver rolling his window down. A few seconds later Matthew rolled his window down too. Coincidence? I thought.

 

I then held on to my sloppy bag, thankful that I had it and that I hadn't gotten anything on the seats, and I took a few deep breaths, thankful that the worst was over. I was hungry for breakfast but still nauseous and also weak from vomiting. I thought we were never going to get there. The lights were still bothering me and this dude's braking skills seriously sucked.

When we pulled up to our destination I stayed in the car long enough to see Matthew give the guy a credit card. Knowing I was in the clear, I lodged myself out of the car and towards the nearest trashcan on the sidewalk. I threw away my yucky bag and spit into the can a few times. I then went back to the car and gathered my backpack and duffle bag before Matthew had gotten out of the car. When we got out he grabbed our bigger luggage and sat it on the sidewalk near me. I felt awful. This is not how I wanted to start my Great Ocean Road adventure.

 

It was 7 o'clock and there was noone around. I was confused because this wasn't the right address and it wasn't the right company name. I went inside and looked at a guy with swept back hair and big plastic glasses. I asked him if this was where I needed to be for the GOR Tour and he said I probably wanted to be down the street just a few doors where the Greyhound company was. I agreed that the address I was given matched a few doors down better than it did his office. So I went outside and told Matthew we needed to go down a few doors.

 

When we got in front of the Greyhound Office we saw total darkness inside. There was no people, no place for a bus to stop, and no directions. We decided to wait for a few minutes and see if anyone came up. We were about thirty minutes early anyways.

 

While we waited Matthew ran across the street to grab breakfast for us. I handed him my credit card and proceeded to put my head in between my legs and close my eyes. I felt awful and the swirling car lights were still not helping any. A few minutes passed before Matthew came back. He had picked out a white chocolate-raspberry muffin and apple-berry juice for me. I was starving but I knew I couldn't eat anything yet. Instead I took a half a dramamine and put my head back down. I didn't want to be doped up on the GOR but I had no choice at this point.

 

At 7:15 I checked my phone for missed calls from the Greyhound company but found nothing. I looked around us and still saw no one. Back down the street where we had originally started I saw a bus with people loading it.

 

“Run down there and see if that's where we need to be.”

I watched in disappointment as Matthew slowly wandered down the street. If I wouldn't had been sick I would have ran down there and back before he even thought to ask. Sure enough though, a few minutes later Matthew came back and said that was the bus we were looking for. I grabbed my luggage pieces and headed towards the bus, Matthew slowly but surely made his way too.

 

We were the last ones to arrive so our only options for seats were right in front, directly behind the driver's seat. Our driver introduced himself as Matt and told Matthew and I that we were the co-pilots because of our seats.   Matthew thought that was pretty cool and I was pleased to have a seat with a view that helped my nausea.

A few minutes later a beautiful girl my age boarded the bus.   She had to sit up front in the real co-pilot's seat because it was the only one left. Matt said she would copilot with us.

Matt was a nice guy, he seemed pretty cheerful and upbeat about the tour. He explained that we would drive about an hour before stopping for a break. I looked around me and saw a few older people, though no one had been using a cane like I thought they would. I wondered what kind of people were on the back of the bus but my stomach wouldn't allow me to do that much movement.

 

As soon as Matt started the engine I felt the dramamine kick in and I quickly drifted off to sleep. The thing about Dramamine is that it makes you loopier than a pothead. You get super drowsy and when you wake up you can tell your thoughts are tainted by something. I have tried staying awake after taking a Dramamine but it is near impossible. My whole first day on the Great Ocean Road was a fog of taking pictures and sleeping with my head rolling around.

 

After an hour I heard Matt start to talk on the speaker. Slowly I felt my body trying to wake up but my eyes wouldn't open. I finally forced myself awake and heard Matt say something about being at our first stop. I gathered my purse and shuffled off the bus with the rest of the group. We all looked like robots walking mechanically towards a bridge where our cameras would rise up and take snapshots. It was a beautiful bridge, but I wasn't sure what else was going on other than a photo opp. There was a neat statue too and I read a sign that said the GOR was a project designed to give WWI veterans something to do for work after the war had ended.

 

I heard an older woman with an English accent ask Matt why Australia had such a high percentage of casualties in WWI, even though they weren't that involved with the war. Matt explained that the percentage was higher because they sent less troops but the casualties were all the same. I don't think the lady understood but even in my state of mind I knew what Matt was saying.

 

When the bus started rolling again I found myself staring at the stick shift for a good couple of minutes before I told myself I should just go back to sleep. When I woke up we were in a town called Anglesea and we had stopped to take pictures of the beautiful Ocean Road. I willed myself to stay awake a few minutes on the bus ride to enjoy the beautiful ocean scenery. We literally were on a road over looking the ocean. It was like if we fell off the ledge we would land on the beach. I enjoyed the view but eventually fell back into a sleep coma.

 

Not long after I woke up again to see the city of Lorne. I was told that Lorne was the largest city on the Great Ocean Road and that it was also the most expensive city on the GOR. As we drove through town I marveled at how cute this town was. It was very surfer oriented and had dozens of colorful surfer shops all along the highway.

 

Sleep. Wake. The next stop I really enjoyed. The name of the town was Burleigh Heads, which automatically sounded surferish. This stop was mainly for the purpose of giving us a bathroom stop but I was interested to learn this was a huge surfer town and the headquarter offices of Billabong, Quick Silver and Rip Curl were all right in front of our restroom stop. I felt pretty honored to see such things and I snapped a few pictures. I walked in and out of a few of the shops but I remembered why I didn't own any Billabong clothes. I couldn't afford them even though I loved the style.

 

On the bus Matthew and I had had a few interactions with the girl sitting up front but that was really it. We didn't know much about anyone else on the bus and I was so drugged up that I didn't really care at that point. Our next stop helped break the ice a little bit though.

 

Matt seemed to spontaneously decide to drive down an old dirt road. He said it would be worth it because we would all have a chance to see koalas in the wild. I perked up at the sound of this and began to look out the windows in search of a furry friend. When we got to the end of the dirt road Matt stopped the bus and we all got out and walked back towards the highway. As we walked Matthew started up a conversation with our fellow co-pilot.  Her name was Julia.

 

Julia was from Belgium. She had been in Australia for five weeks and was on a worldwide excursion. She had recently visited Singapore and New Zealand and was headed to Bali and then Thailand and eventually back to Belgium. I asked her why she had decided to do all of this and she said she had wanted to for a long time but always had a relationship, a job or a commitment to fulfill. Then at one point she said “Fu*k eet” and decided it was now or never. I nodded in approval of her choice and Matthew said we pretty much did the same thing.

 

About that time the group of people in front of us stopped and we followed their gaze to a big fuzzy koala sleeping high up in a gum tree. Matt had told us on the bus that koalas ate the leaves off of gum trees. Gum trees were a type of Eucalypse tree.

Apparently there were over 700 types of Eucalyptus trees and koalas only ate off of three of those variations. Matthew had asked if it was true that koalas got stoned on the leaves and Matt said it was false. He then went on to explain that there was very little nutrition in gum leaves and that the lack of nutrition made the koalas move very slowly. I thought it still sounded like they were stoned. Matt said koalas had extremely small brains and that they spent over 70% of their life sleeping. They were definitely stoner animals.

 

After snapping pictures and repeatedly telling everyone how cute and fluffy the koalas were, we kept walking and talking to Julie until we came to another Koala. During this walk Julie asked us about Oklahoma and if it was a beautiful part of the states. She said she wanted to go to the States some day but she wasn't sure when.

 

The third koala we spotted was high up and it looked like he was waving at us. I waved back excitedly and told him “Surf's up dude!” Everyone laughed and then we kept walking until we eventually made our way back to the bus where Matt was waiting patiently for us. He asked if we had enjoyed that and everyone agreed it was pretty awesome to see koalas out in the wild.

 

For lunch we stopped at the Cape Otway Lighthouse. The tour had arranged for us to have a private buffet lunch on the underside of the Lighthouse Cafe. The menu was some kind of sausage, salad, potato salad and white sandwich bread. I was starved and so ready to eat. It was wicked windy outside so Matthew and I took our plates inside and found a corner table with an excellent view of the lighthouse. Following closely behind us was an older gentleman. He asked if we minded if he sat with us and we heartily invited him to do so.

 

Matthew and the older gentleman began chatting about the horrible wind and how fast the weather had changed as we had driven down the coast. I asked him where he was from and he said he was a Kiwi. I excitedly told him we had just been in New Zealand and met a lot of Kiwi people who all seemed super nice. His response was: “don't let them fool you.”

 

We ate it silence for a few minutes before he said, “You two are Americans, eh?”

 

I said we were indeed Americans and asked him if our accents gave it away. He said it was a combination of the accents and the way we used our forks. I was completely thrown off by the fork comment and I asked him to explain.

He said Americans were the only people in the world who held their fork in their right hand and their knives in their left. He said the rest of the world did the opposite and that it made more sense because they didn't have to drop their utencils in order to switch between cutting and eating. I found this fascinating and yet another reason why America was bassakwards compared to the rest of the world.

 

I asked the gentleman what brought him to Australia and he said he was on his way to visit his youngest daughter's in-laws near Sydney. I thought this sounded interesting and Matthew seemed to agree. We then finished our meal and before heading towards the lighthouse I asked the old man what his name was and he said Peter. I told him my name was Haley and he and Matthew said they had already exchanged names earlier in the day.

 

Matthew and I started the long walk down the bridge that went to the lighthouse. When we got right up to it we looked up and saw Julie wobble a bit from a burst of wind. She was on the outside of the lighthouse walking around it. We laughed and started our journey to the top.

 

The inside of the lighthouse was all stone. We read a sign that said there was no mortar or concrete used to stack the bricks. Each brick had a unique design that was hand crafted by people of the village nearby. Each step under our feet had been made from a solid chunk of stone. That must have been a lot of stones, I thought. We also read about a man who had tended the lighthouse for 30 years. During that time the bulb never went out on his watch. He had a monument and an award near the lighthouse.

 

When we got up towards the top of the lighthouse we encountered a few very steep metal steps that led to the center room where the light beam was placed. The circular room was tiny and packed full of people. We looked around briefly before we decided to walk around the outside and check out the view. Before we got to the door Julie warned us not to take anything that would blow away because the wind current was extremely strong. We thought we were okay but she insisted on holding my purse, Matthew's hat and Matthew's coffee. We let her hold our things and I then took my first step outside.

As soon as I was out I felt the wind sway my body pretty hard and I held on to my shirt to keep it from blowing up and causing me embarrassment. We walked around the lighthouse clockwise and I took a few pictures but I was mostly afraid the wind would suck my phone out of my hand so I kept it close to me. Halfway around we met an Asian dude who was hollering loudly about the wind. He told us he had just lost his glasses over the edge of the lighthouse.

 

Once we made it all the way around I went back in the lighthouse and looked around long enough to notice a few instructions on the wall and a few old pictures. It looked like an old man's office really. It was simple and uncluttered. A man standing near the stairs told us it was easier to take the metal steps backwards so I took his advice. I made it down the metal steps but I think backwards was harder in my case.

 

When we got back to the bus Matt told us we would stop again in thirty minutes to see a real rainforest. I slept for a while and then woke to find bus in the middle of what looked just like a rainforest. The group made our way down a path and we were told to stop at the first big opening. As we walked I looked behind me and noticed a couple that had dark leathery skin. I had seen them smoking at every stop and for the first time I heard the man speak. His voice sounded like mine but much more horse even.  I say this because my voice was still only half working after my surfing accident the week before.  I decided this man must have some kind of throat cancer though because he coughed a lot too.

 

On the way down into the forrest Matthew and I walked together but didn't talk much at all. I took a few pictures of the scenery and then we noticed one of the older ladies came up next to us and asked us if we were from the States. She had a very weird accent and I was going to guess she was some kind of European. I was surprised to hear her say she was actually from Detroit and was here in Australia for a few weeks on vacation. I nodded and said, “Detroit. That's Kid Rock's city!” Matthew laughed and said, “No, it's Eminem's city.” She laughed and nodded her head at our statements.

 

The group then came to a halt and Matt began spouting off facts about the rainforest. He said three things make a place a rainforest: the amount of rainfall, the amount of light that reaches to the floor has to be less than 20% and the location of the forest had to be in a tropical climate.

 He also explained that this was a subtropical rainforest because it wasn't hot and humid it was cool and wet. He talked about Platypuses and how they have a spur under their leg. He told us to think of the worst possible pain we could imagine and then multiply it times fifty. He then said that there were platypuses in the river below us but that we would never see them because they were extremely shy and also bi-turnal, meaning they mostly come out at night and rarely come out during the day.

 

We walked a bit further and then stopped and Matt told us to stop and be still. Our whole group was quiet and we heard birds over head, water running below and I felt a gentle breeze against my neck. The air was so fresh I could hardly stand it. It was a very pleasant contrast to the stale bus air we had been breathing all day.  It also made me feel like it was healing my nausea somehow.  The ferns around us were huge and the trees above us were at least fifty meters tall. I could barely see the sky above us but the light shining through was beautiful.  Matt concluded by saying we have to remember to stop and simply observe at times.

 

After reaching the bottom of the walkway we turned around and walked back up to the top of the forest where we used the toilets and loaded back on the bus. I was excited to hear Matt say that our next stop was at the 12 Apostles.

Pam Remple, a friend back home, had told me all about the 12 Apostles and how amazing they were. She said it was her favorite thing about Australia and that meant a lot because she had lived there off and on for three years.

Sleep. Wake.

When we got to the 12 Apostles I got off the bus and waited for Matthew to do the same. While I was waiting I noticed the girl standing next to me and introduced myself. Her name was Sarina and she was from Switzerland. She was very petite and dark complected with beautiful black eyes. She looked like a nice girl and I could tell from her small voice that she was a sweet person.

Matthew joined us and the three of us walked down the long road towards the 12 Apostles. We learned that Sarina was 21 and traveling the country for three months. I originally thought she was travelling with a group of German guys but she said they had all met the day before the bus trip and she had been appointed the role of caretaker while they were on this trip. We laughed about how all men needed a responsible woman to look after them.

 

After a few more steps I overheard Matthew introducing himself to another girl who had matched our pace. Her name was Elena and she was from Germany. Her and Sarina had stuck together so far on the trip. Elena was tall and blonde. She had broad shoulders like a German but was very pretty in the face. She caught me as a typical German. She was straightforward in her speech and didn't laugh a whole lot. She wasn't rude but very honest.

 

As we approached a sign for the 12 Apostles, Sarina suggested that Matthew and I pose for a photo so we did and she snapped a few for us. Before we could walk away from the sign we were overtaken by Asians. They jabbered loudly and bumped into my arm on their quest to take a picture next to the sign. Elena rolled her eyes and Sarina brought up what we were all thinking.

 

“The Asians are so crazy.”

 

We all laughed and Matthew and I looked at each other because we had yet again found someone else who agreed with us on this topic. Elena went on to say she couldn't stand how they acted and wished they would calm down.

 

Matthew made a joke about the asians being born with cameras in their faces and touristy expressions. I asked the group what they thought they did with all of their thousands of pictures and Sarina laughed and said they probably uploaded them on their fancy computers and then went out to take more pictures.

 

I approached a sign and stopped to read what it said. The rest of the group kept walking but I didn't mind. I learned that the 12 Apostles were a limestone formation that used to be on the bottom of the ocean floor. Millions of years of sea water and erosion had caused the shoreline to break, leaving big masses of rock standing alone in individual columns out at sea. I also read that there were formations forming now if we wanted to look and find them while at the 12 Apostles. Apparently there was much more sea life under each pillar than there was above them.

 

After I finished reading I took a few more steps and when I looked up, I literally lost my breathe. It was the most beautiful site I had ever seen. I can't explain it but I felt power and awe surge through my body.

How beautiful these random pillars were. There they stood, all alone, in the middle of a beautiful swirly blue ocean. The waves continuously crashed against the bottoms of them and I wondered how many times it would take to make the pillars fall. I felt honored to see such a site, especially because there were several that had already collapsed. It was neat to think that I was seeing something that wouldn't always be there. It was a rare moment in time that I captured in my memory and on film. One day I would hear about the collapse of one of these pillars and I would be able to smile because I had seen them in person. I had personally admired their beauty and soaked it all in.

 

I walked to the edge of the wall that overlooked the apostles and I sat in silence staring at it all for several minutes. I couldn't move. It was the same feeling I got when I got lost in a truly captivating piece of art, only it was real and moving and designed by God. I got lost in it. I stood there and looked for so long. I didn't even want to take pictures. I just wanted to soak in my surroundings.

 

My beautiful moment was interrupted when I felt someone bump into my arm. Naturally, it was an Asian couple squeezing in next to me to pose for a picture. They didn't seem to notice me. In fact, I was quite sure that the back of my head was very much so in their picture. I decided I didn't want to show up on an Asian computer somewhere so I moved and walked a ways down the path, towards the other lookout stand. It was there that I found Matthew standing away from the crowd in the middle of the two look outs. I stood next to him and enjoyed not being overwhelmed with so many people. We talked about how fascinating the scene was and we watched as Peter walked by us and nodded in our direction. He too had the look of amazement on his face.

 

Matthew said he needed to go to the restroom so I went to the other look out by myself while he walked back towards the bus. I took a few more pictures but found the other tourists to be very obnoxious and pushy. There were all sorts of selfie sticks and couples taking cheesy pictures together so I decided to head back towards the bus myself. It was nearing time to be back on the bus and by Matt's rules, the last one on the bus had to sing a solo. I didn't want to have to sing a solo, especially not with a raspy voice.

 

When everyone joined me back on the bus Matt said we had one last stop before dinner. I think we were all getting worn out from seeing so many beautiful things in one day, but I decided one last stop would be okay since it was only 15 minutes away.

Even in the short fifteen minutes my body found its way to sleep and then upon arrival, it was woken up again.

Loch Ard Gorge was even better than the 12 Apostles in many aspects. For one, there wasn't near as many tourists, in fact it was mostly just our group. For another thing, the site was not as widely known around the world so I felt like we were being let in on a little secret. Matt told us a few facts about the gorge but I had been drowsy at the time so I didn't fully understand them. Because of that I stopped at the first marking and read the story of Loch Ard Gorge.

 

A century or so ago there had been a massive shipwreck near the gorge. Only two people survived, a young man and a young woman. The young man survived by holding on to the bottom of an upside down row boat. Eventually he made his way to shore. While on the shore he heard someone crying from the rocks so he swam over to help the person. This other person was the young lady who had also survived, she was stuck on the rocks. The young man rescued the girl and together they swam back to shore. The two survived by nourishing themselves with a bottle of whiskey that had also washed up on the shore next to them.

The view from Loch Ard was also breathtaking. I liked the one they called Salt and Pepper Shakers. I asked Matt why they called it that and he said look at it, it looks like salt and pepper shakers! I laughed and agreed that that was a pretty good reason to call it that.

 

I also liked the gorge because we had the opportunity to walk down to the beach below it and get a good up-close look at the marvelous site. I particularly liked a place towards the back of the crevice that had drippy looking rocks. I had Matthew take my picture in front of it because it reminded me of the drip painting I liked to do. I thought to myself that it was like God did drip painting too, in his own special way.

 

After we all had sandy feet and sea-sprayed clothes, Matt told us to load the bus and get ready to see our hostel for the night. Our hostel was in a town called Port Campbell.

Port Campbell was a neat coastal town as well. There were just a few small stores and two drinking locations. The hostel had a huge sign that read “HOSTEL” on the outside. We all unloaded our luggage out of the trailer and walked inside the hostel to find a hip, modern atmosphere. The lady at the front gave us our room keys, pillows and sheets and told us to return all of these items the next day when we checked out.

 

Matthew and I were assigned room 8. We shared a room with a couple we didn't know, the smokers from Denmark, Julie, and the lady from Detroit. As soon as we put our massive luggage down, Matthew and I headed downstairs and out the door to check out the more highly recommended pub. Matt had told us that there was a local beer called Prickly Moses that we needed to try so that was first on my list.

 

After grabbing two Prickly Moses, Matthew and I found a huge table outside and sat down with our drinks. I took the first sip and decided I liked it pretty good. It was the lightest, fruitiest beer I had ever tasted. It was a very natural taste. I had read that the beer was brewed with rainwater from Lake Ottaway nearby. Matthew took a sip and decided it wasn't heavy enough for him. Around that time the middle aged man that had been on our bus came outside and we cheerfully invited him to come sit next to us with his beer. He took a sip and had the same reaction as Matthew, he said the aftertaste was...interesting.

 

The middle aged man was named Stuart. Stuart was a single man in his forties from the U.K. He was in Australia for a few weeks vacation from work. He had started in Melbourne and was riding the bus tour to Adelaide and then spending a few days time in Kangaroo Island before flying out to Alice Springs where he would see the famous Ayers Rock.

 

Stuart was a super fun guy and I could tell that he would be a good drinking buddy on this trip. By the time we finished our beers we could see across the street that the rest of the group had gathered around a picnic table and we knew the pizza would be there shortly. We looked at each other and decided we needed beer to go with our pizza so we walked around the corner to the bottle shop and Matthew bottle a six pack of Victoria Bitter Gold and Stuart bought a six-pack of Strongbow and a bottle opener.

 

After getting our beer Stuart, Matthew and I walked across the street and joined the others at a huge picnic table on the beach. The group was split into two at this point. The Denmark couple, Denise from Detroit, Peter and Diktna, who was from Denmark were sitting at one table and all the younger people plus Stuart and Matthew and myself were all standing and sitting around another table. I wanted to be in the middle of the action of course so I stayed at the jam-packed table. This was the first point of the trip where everyone really started to mingle and mix up. While Matthew and Stuart and I had been at the pub, everyone else apparently, had gone to the bottle shop and picked up beer and wine.

 

The whole gang was laughing because Peter was the first to open his bottle of wine. He was very adamant about sharing his wine with others at the table. A few of the girls took him up on his offer but the rest of the group was engaging in beer-related drinking.

 

We saw Matt going up towards the bus so Matthew ran after him to help him pick up the pizza. I stayed behind and met the German guys for the first time. I met a tall blonde kid named Laurence and his travelling companion who looked similar, named Sven. These guys were both 18 and from Germany. They had met up in Sydney and had similar travel plans so they decided to travel together for the rest of their time in Australia. I could not imagine any sane American mother letting her 18 year old son travel overseas alone. Laurence reminded me of my own brother when he was 18. He was sweet and nice but probably not the most responsible person.

 

I then turned to the other two guys standing around and introduced myself to them as well. The athletic looking one was named Kris and he was from the U.K.   Kris was planning on running a marathon without prior training as soon as he got back from Australia as a way of supporting his friend's mother who had cancer.

 

The other guy was quiet and smart-looking. He wore glasses and had a clean-shaved look. He was tall and muscly and always laughing. His name was Mark and he was also from Germany. I guess on the bus all of the German guys had lumped together and became fast friends. They had also lumped in Elena because she was also German, and Sarina I guess because Switzerland was close enough to Germany.

 

After meeting all the folks Matthew and Matt came around the corner with a bunch of pizzas and another girl who had a bunch of pizzas. After setting down the pizzas Matt explained that he had a family emergency he had to get back for and that Ngaire (Na-ree) was going to be taking over as our guide from here on out. We were sad to see Matt go but he assured us Ngaire would be super fun and he was his first request for a replacement.

 

We all gravitated towards the fresh pizza and Denice showed a slice of something to me and Matthew in amazement because it had a potato on it. Peter was on his third or fourth glass of wine and everyone was hooting and hollering at his drinking skills. I guess he inspired the others because the beer went quickly after that. I had one or two but I quickly switched to water because I didn't want to have an extra reason to get sick on the bus tomorrow.

 

A bit later I complained about being cold. I was in a tank top because earlier it was super hot. Now that the sun had set it was quite chilly. Sarina offered to let me share a small blanket with her and I agreed. We tied the shaw-sized blanket around our shoulders and tied a knot in front of us. The guys laughed and one of the Germans said we looked like a “Cee-pruh” which I finally interpreted to mean “zebra” because our towel was striped.

 

As the beer cans disappeared the guys acted sillier and sillier. Sarina and I laughed together at the guys. We bonded over the fact that we were both drinking water but still having a good time. Around then Stuart spoke up.

 

“Pub?”

 

“Pub.” Matthew said with his beer in the air.

 

“Pub.” Kris raised his can and then finished it off.

 

“Pub?” this time Stuart was looking at Sarina and I.

 

“No, I don't want to.” Sarina was shaking her head.

 

“No, I'm going to bed soon.” I responded. At this the boys let out a bunch of noises.

 

“Come on!”

 

“Don't be a baby!”

“It's only nine o'clock!”

 

Sarina and I laughed but we both assured we weren't interested. Eventually the boys left and Sarina and I were left alone.  Everyone else had gone to the hostel for the night.

 

“I don't really want to go to bed yet.” I said.

 

“Yes. I don't either.”

 

“Okay. We could go to the pub but only drink water and just for a little while.”

 

“Yes. Only twenty minutes then we have to go to bed!” Sarina was with me on this one.

 

“And ONLY water!” I knew how easily I fell into peer pressure and tonight was not going to be the night. I seriously did not need to drink alcohol before riding on a bus for eight hours. We promised each other we would stick to the plan and with that we walked towards the pub. When we got to the front doors we stopped and took the blanket off.

 

“We don't want to look silly in the pub.” Sarina was giggling as she said this. I laughed and agreed that we might get funny stares if we walked in like a zebra.

 

As we approached the table the guys all cheered and slammed their fists on the table.

 

“What kind of beer do you want?” Stuart was already standing up and inching towards the ordering well.

 

“Oh, we're just drinking water” I said, “but thank you.”

 

“Come on, I'm buying!” Stuart had his wallet out and was ready to take our order.

 

“It's really, okay. We will drink water.” Sarina was so polite when she spoke. Matthew and Kris chimed in and tried to get us to drink a beer but Sarina and I smiled at each other and poured ourselves two glasses of water.

 

The guys were disappointed but eventually gave up the fight. At the table Sarina and I mostly listened as the boys talked about sports and things. It was fun to listen though, I always thought boys were more entertaining than girls in situations like this.

 

After a few minutes the guys started poking fun at our water glasses again so Sarina and I decided to go back to the hostel. Once again the guys begged us to stay out but we had made a pact and so we stuck our grounds.

 

Before leaving the front door we tied ourselves up again with the blanket and giggled about how silly boys were. It was a short two-minute walk to the hostel and when we got to the top of the stairs I untied the blanket and told Sarina it had been a fun night.

 

I then found my way to room eight and with my phone flashlight I dug out some clothes to sleep in. The showers were pretty clean for being dormitory style and I was enjoying the peace and quiet when all of a sudden I heard a ton of chattery young voices enter the hallway. I was completely locked in my shower stall but I still felt violated. These were not adult voices, these were young, loud and high-pitched voices, and a lot of them. I finished rinsing and reached for my towel. That was when I realized I didn't have a towel. It was still in Melbourne, at Jen's house.

I stood there for a minute and shook my arms and legs around, hoping some moisture would fly off. When it didn't I hopelessly threw on my t-shirt and leggings and grabbed my things. When I opened the stall door I saw what I had expected to see. Dozens of pre-teens running around doing pre-teen things like picking their braces and pulling girl's hair and laughing and farting.  I heard someone my age yelling at the preteens and telling them to calm down.  I was grateful for that.

 

I quickly shuffled to my room and put my things away in the dark. The rest of the room was already asleep other than Matthew, who was still at the pub. My hair was soaking wet and I cringed when I laid my head on it. I pulled my hair up above my head and laid it as neatly on my pillow as I could manage.

 

I was shivering, trying to both warm myself up and dry myself off, when Matthew came in. He whispered to me to ask where the showers were. I told him and then showed him my wet hair. He laughed and I explained it was because I didn't have a towel. He handed me his and I wrapped it around my hair, thankful for the tiny bit of good fortune. I then laid down and before Matthew made it back I was fast asleep.