I had once planned on writing this weeks post about my schooling thus far but this weekend’s adventure in Noosa Heads needs a spotlight. Noosa is a beach town about 80 miles North of Brisbane in Queensland. It is located on the Sunshine Coast- an area that earns its name. A group of us spent the weekend just outside town at the headlands of the Noosa National Park.
We began our journey Thursday night when we traveled a third of the way to Noosa, staying the night in Brisbane with some friends. It was shocking to believe I have spent two months in Queensland and not ventured a quick hour north to the beautiful capital. The city has a much different feel than the touristy Gold Coast. It is a very lived-in place. Full of bustling men and women in suits, joined by runners and long boarders in the many parks that boarder the Brisbane River. In all of Australia I definitely have felt most at home in Brisbane. The town was preparing for a month long music festival, which guarantees that we will be retuning soon, if not as soon as this coming weekend.
The following morning after enjoying a sleepy breakfast along the river parkway, we headed north to Noosa via Greyhound for the rest of the weekend. We arrived 3 hours later at our hostel- the Dolphins Beach House. The entire grounds were pink, even my bed linens. Once we got past the vibrant colors, it was clear this was going to be our weekend oasis. We had two rooms with our own private kitchen, living room and bathroom. It was a very low maintenance hostel with no frills. This included no hot water during the hours of 10am and 5pm, and all showers were to be limited to 10 minutes before the hot water was shut off. I later found out I wouldn’t be bothered by this rule because I would burn my entire back at the beach and actually prefer a cold shower.
After taking it all in we headed towards the beach, which was conveniently just a 2-minute jaunt. On our way we passed 4 or 5 small sidewalk restaurants and stores. It was just a one-block mini-town but was bustling with families, dogs and surfers. After the sun went down on Sunshine Beach we headed back to the hostel and to our surprise found an older gentlemen sitting on what we thought was our couch watching the old American TV show “Pimp My Ride.” We learned that Tony was living in a room below us but it was full of drunken partiers and he was looking for a quiet area to watch the upcoming AFL “footie” game. After at first being a little off put by his presence, we began to enjoy his commentary on the horrible orange flames the “Pimp My Ride” crew was detailing on a vintage hearse owned by a teenage “burger technician.”
We could only handle so much of the bad TV and so a couple of us headed to the one-street town to find salvation in fine cuisine. After scouring the restaurant menus to compare prices, we ended up back at our first choice feeling less guilty about the slightly higher prices because we at least attempted to find the best deal. We were drawn to Fratellini because of the warm vibrant atmosphere, but also because of the colorful blankets on each chair. We even contemplated stealing them to keep us warm for the night at our hostel. After enjoying a delicious Italian dinner we left. Without blankets. We arrived home to Tony still on our couch, now watching Melbourne vs. Sydney in Footie. We watched the remainder of the match with him and finally had someone explain the game in laymen’s terms. There are 18 players on each team on the field at once. There are 4 posts at each end. If the ball is kicked without any interception from either team into the two most middle posts, then that is considered a goal and is awarded 6 points. If it is intercepted but still gets through the posts, or goes into the either of the two outside posts then it is 1 point, called a “behind.” There are many more forgotten rules and apparently new precautions that have been put in place for player safety. After watching Melbourne win, we headed to bed.
The next morning we happily slept in before heading to the beach for some morning sun. This is where I received my nice red coloring that I would suffer for later. After covering up and eating lunch we walked along the beach to the headlands of Noosa National Park. We had learned about Paradise Caves from Tony the night before and asked him many times to remind us of where we could find them. Despite our efforts, we still could not find the right trail and as we were asking for directions we saw Tony running down the beach towards us. He was our savior. He had seen we were clearly lost and pointed us in the right direction. As Tony had said, the caves were not to be missed. Cautious about my fear of heights, I didn’t venture all the way down the wall into the caves. From our spot on top we saw sea turtles swimming in the tide. After spending a glorious couple of hours staring at the bluest water I have ever seen, we waded through the sand back to our hostel to change for a night downtown.
We happened to come to Noosa during the annual Noosa Jazz Festival, but instead of paying 45 dollars to eat and listen, we wandered along the streets hearing jazz from the different restaurants echo together. It was a wonderful evening, which included quesadillas and gelato. We had a nightcap with the other girls back on our hostel’s street before heading to bed.
We set our alarms for 5:15am and put on all of the clothing we brought, including our bedding and went to the beach for the sunrise and some yogurt. After our 8am checkout we headed on a more ambitious hike through the National Park. Stupidly, we began our hike barefoot as we had not needed shoes in the rest of Noosa but quickly learned this was a huge mistake. We had planned to hike a few hours in but instead found the most beautiful rock expanse that jutted into the ocean and ended up staying there for roughly 3 hours. It marked the beginning of Alexandria Bay, also known as the nudist beach in Noosa. We were far enough away that we were able to avoid any unpleasant sights but there was one nudist couple that hiked towards us. We were not too eager to share our rock with them. Thankfully they returned to the beach before reaching us. Other exciting sites were tons of crabs, dolphins and more sea turtles.
We decided we wanted to see the caves one more time before we left so we stopped there on our way back through the Park. With a little encouragement from my roommate Steph, this time I decided to climb all the way down to the caves. I knew this would be the last time in Noosa and as it was September 1st, I was feeling my time in Australia slip away as well. I was a little apprehensive at first, but I knew Steph was also afraid of heights and had done it successfully once and was doing it a second time. After a little mental preparation we began scaling the rock wall down to the caves. Steph talked me down the entire way and I arrived safely but shaking from fear. At the base of the cave we were among beautiful pools of ocean water. It was more gorgeous than I possible could have known from above. However, I spent most of my time down there gravely anticipating the climb back up. I had seen many kids come down and up, and intently watched two couples climb up for reassurance. But, there was nothing that could assure me that I was going to be able to do it myself. Steph could clearly see that I was anxious, and after realizing we were surrounded by crabs on our rocky perch, she was anxious as well. So we mutually decided to start our climb back up. After some debate I decided that I wanted Steph to lead so I could see where she placed her hands and feet. And now completely alone in the caves, we started our ascent.
I was doing okay until about halfway up. Then my first-ever panic attack set in. I froze. One foot was flat on a rock ledge; the other placed unsteadily, half over the edge. My hands were clinging to indents in the rock above me, and my mind was numb. I was paralyzed with fear. I told Steph I didn’t know where to put my feet and she looked back trying to explain what step to take next. I said I couldn’t. She told me I was fine, and I was going to be fine. But I wasn’t. My heart was racing and I could no longer hear what she was saying. I remember staring at her and firmly saying “Steph. I am not fine”. She knew it in this moment. She saw the fear in my eyes that radiated my entire body. She asked if I wanted to go back down, but I looked down and knew that going down meant I would not be coming back up, not on my own at least. Looking down was a huge mistake. A new wave of fear hit me as I saw the rocky pools below me. And then another wave of fear hit and another, and it felt like I couldn’t breathe. At this point I started to black out everything around me, everything except for Steph’s face. She was the only thing keeping me in that moment. Thank god for her. I can’t even really remember where I found the courage to take another step and grab a different ledge, but it must have been Steph because all I remember is Steph’s face and her voice telling me to breathe.
I could not tell you how it happened but we made it to the top of the cliff. Exploding with adrenaline, we were both total wrecks. What had just happened? As we walked down the trail towards the beach we reflected on what we just experienced together. Steph told me about the intense fear in my eyes, and her immediate guilt for convincing me to go down in the first place. I was both elated to be alive and on the verge of collapsing from fear. I would not have made it out if it weren’t for Steph. She was my motivational speaker in that moment. No one will ever understand what happened on that Cliffside but us, and this became apparent when we met up with the other girls and there were not words to explain what had just happened. For the first time I actually encountered the true nature of my very real fear of heights. Even now a few days later writing about it, I am unable to explain the feeling I get when I revisit that moment which felt like hours of my life. The pictures forever in my memory will be of looking down at the crashing waves over the rock pools and looking up at Steph’s face.
Both mentally and physically drained from our traumatic day, Steph and I slept the entire way home. We were awoken at our final destination by a fireworks finale, being held at the Gold Coast Show, which is an annual carnival event. It was magnificent, just another thrill on our long weekend of adventure. Without a doubt this was an unforgettable weekend in Australia.
The Journey Continues
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