Townsville (Feb. 19 - Feb. 28)
And I'm going to start where I left off before that Thailand interlude: After a couple wrong turns, Lachin drove me right up to Jeremy's driveway and transferred me from one group of amazing people to another.
I felt instantly comfortable with Jeremy. He and his roommates welcomed me into their home in every way possible. The very first thing we did was go to the grocery store. And Jeremy walked around the whole place barefoot. Isn't that so spectacular? I hate wearing shoes, and Australia doesn't really care whether you wear them or not (in most places). After we dropped our food off at his apartment, Jeremy showed me around the downtown of Townsville, which is really only a few streets, and took me to a diving company so that I could schedule a dive on the Great Barrier Reef: the one thing I HAD to do before leaving Australia.
Jeremy lived with two other guys: Mick and Lui. Mick is from Australia and can drink like an Australian. He always referred to me as sweetie, a name I quickly learned to accept as part of Mick's personality. He also loved to talk, and because of that I learned heaps, particularly about Borneo and Australia. He had just been to Borneo for a month long university class and absolutely loved it. He gave me all of his left over diahrrea and malaria medicine and had some fantastic snake wrestling stories. Mick also introduced me to kangaroo steaks, which surprisingly were really good.
For 3 full days, Jeremy and I hung out non-stop. We went to the aquarium, the Townsville Museum, strolled along The Strand and got icecream, explored the James Cook University Campus (and yes we even went to the library and I got some books!), and played sand volleyball. Then he and Mick returned to Orpheus Island for 5 more days of volunteering, and I moved into Jeremy's room (I had pretty much been there already as Jeremy insisted I sleep in his bed and he take the couch) and became Lui's only roommate.
Lui is from Germany, but has been going to university and working in Australia for about 6 years. I loved living with Lui. We didn't do much beyond sit on the balcony, drink Ouzo, and talk. And it was awesome. That was mostly in the evenings - during the weekdays, I was on my own since Lui had a job. I spent one afternoon/evening with Yui (remember, I met him on Orpheus, too) on Magnetic Island; we got over to the island just in time for sunset, walked the beach, and then grabbed some dinner. I also spent a lot of my time climbing up and down Castle Hill- a steep granite monolith (according to Wikipedia) with a trail to the top cutting right through Jeremy's front yard. The view from the top is amazing - you can see all of Townsville sprawled below, right up to the edge of the ocean.
I spent a full day being ferried to the Great Barrier Reef (Wheeler Reef), diving, and then being ferried back. I did 2 dives - the second was better than the first. We dove on a more interesting section of the reef on the second dive. Not to mention, my dive buddy was a cute New Zealander, but that doesn't really matter underwater. The coral was beautiful - massive rocks (bommies) were completely covered in all different types and colors of coral, and my favorite part was swimming through two closely spaced bommies, like swimming through a valley surrounded by mountains of coral and fish.
Oh, and I learned to drive on the left side of the road - really not that hard and rather intuitive. I borrowed Jeremy's car for the day and drove about an hour outside of Townsville to Crystal Creek. Crystal Creek is nestled in the southernmost section of Queensland rainforest and is a series of waterfalls, creeks, and swimming holes. I went swimming in a pool at the base of a waterfall - so cool, fresh, and relaxing. And no crocs!
When Jeremy and Mick got back from Orpheus, I drove up to the University to pick them up. Later that afternoon, my last one in Townsville, Jeremy and I drove to a little park at the edge of Townsville to which neither of us had ever been. We trekked through the mucky trail in our flip flops, frequently flipping mud all over one another. The trail led us to a secluded cove that opened up to the ocean. We climbed some rocks and then sat and talked. Beautiful, serene, and no better way to spend my last day.
Before I end this, I have to describe sleeping on Jeremy's bed. The bed itself was nice, but nothing extraordinary. The view from his bed, however, was incredible. One side of his room was a wall of windows overlooking Townsville, the ocean, and Magnetic Island. Every morning as the first rays of sunlight illuminated the night sky, I could open my eyes, without moving my body, and be completely eye level with the water-sky horizon. It was simply amazing.
Thank you Jeremy, Lui, and Mick for everything.