The thing about Australia is, due to its size, you often find yourself in tiny towns with a population of three and a 'corner shop' that is a 6km bushwalk away. It's also pretty much a guarantee that these towns will be home to the worst hostels, all cockroach infested and bedbug ridden due to a lack of competition. Fortunately, as they are in the middle of nowhere, these hostels make extra effort to ensure you are entertained during your stay. Unfortunately, these entertainments include such events as the Queensland Feline Association Two Day Cat Spectacular. Unless every single cat I have ever owned (and there have been a lot - preparation for eventual life of a cat lady and all that) has been incredibly mundane, then I cannot imagine a feline doing anything that can be considered even exciting, let alone spectacular, and definitely not for two days straight. I think the most impressive thing my first cat ever did was accept a life in which Kezia and I would dress him up in a frock (matching bonnet of course included), swing him around by his arms, and then push his ears back so he looked not unlike a bald eagle. I like to think he enjoyed his life. Well, before my mother mercilessly ran him over. Obviously.
Partly because it's exciting (but mainly because I can't afford the $2 booking fee), I have stopped booking hostels in advance and have instead taken to hopping off the Greyhound bus in whatever town I land in and beginning a search for somewhere to sleep on foot. This led to me one day the other week hopping on a random bus to join a tour on a camping and canoe trip in Noosa. This would all have been well and good had there not just been a cyclone further up the coast, thus ensuring that it poured down (and I mean poured) for three days non-stop. Thankfully, the camp had a 'things to do when it's raining' list. This included a Make You Own Digeridoo class (I don't think the guy was too impressed when I suggested the middle of a kitchen roll), a Paint Your Own Boomarang class (apparently not a euphamism), and, worryingly, a Make Your Own Emu Caller. I don't know about anyone else, but the last thing I would be want to do if I saw an emu would be to call it to me, but, you know, Australians... Whilst I was in this camp, I somehow managed to offend someone of every nationality in four days. For future reference, refrain from asking a group of Canadians if they are American and do not make "this camp looks like Auschwitz" jokes to a German. For all my efforts, I'm not doing the Brit abroad reputation much good. Still, at least I'm faring better than the Scots. I heard a Scottish girl the other day say to her parents, "it's our Easter in Australia on Sunday! When's yours?" Oh, the shame. She was also telling her mum (yes, I was eavesdropping, hostels can get boring), that she'd just got a haircut for $195. $195! The only way I would ever pay that much for a haircut would be if it was nibbled off by pedigree kittens, of the Queensland Feline Association no less.
I think you can tell a lot about a hostel from the first couple of seconds you are in the room. If there is nothing on the floor, then it probably means there are insects and no one wants to put anything down. If there is stuff everywhere, then there probably aren't any insects, but there will be by the time you leave. Sometimes you have to make quick life and death decisions. For example, a hostel I stayed in last week had bunk beds that were literally just two beds, balanced on top of each other. Take the bottom bunk and risk death during the night if the person on top collapses onto you, or take the top bunk and risk the guilt of killing the person below you? In the end, I decided that it would be unfortunate, but if someone had to sacraficed in order to prolong my own life, then so be it. One of the best hostels I stayed in was in Byron Bay (I stayed there three nights and then reluctantly moved to a cheaper one down the road). Byron Bay is pretty much the marajuana centre of the East Coast, and as such everyone in my dorm room would get up in the morning, get stoned, and then make pancakes by the thousand and insist I join them for breakfast. This continued all day, every day. Every time I went back to the hostel - regardless of the time of day - they would be either making pancakes, eating pancakes, or about to finish their weed and then make some pancakes. It was amazing. I didn't have to buy food for four days and have since learnt that the secret to food budgetting is to bunk with stoners.
The good news is that my tan has been officially upgraded to that of a bronzed Goddess. The bad news is that, for some unknown reason, my left arm is the only part of my anatomy to achieve such status, leaving my right arm, both my legs, and my face with some catching up to do as they are still a pasty white. I'm getting some sunbathing done now though as it is free and there's only so many times I can hover around the local market stalls without buying anything. My lack of financial stability has also led me to indulge myself in a lot more reading, prompting a homeless person in Brisbane to call me a 'bookworm' before shamelessly asking me for money. Obviously she didn't hold it against me though as she wasted no time in pulling me into a very warm embrace when I gave her a dollar. It wasn't just a quick hug either, no no. It was a full-on, many limbed, lingering (both the embrace and the smell she left behind) snuggle. I can't imagine which part of my 'take my money and leave' facial expression she took to mean 'please, hold me against your bosom', but I have since learnt that she is not the only person in Brisbane (homeless or otherwise) to be overly affectionate. The bar beneath my hostel regularly sported naked waitresses - I never thought I would feel over dressed primarily because I was wearing underwear, but I suppose that's just the kind of place Brisbane is. It did have lots of interesting things to do though - within my first day I had visited the Brisbane museum (to buy some water), the Gallery of Modern Art (to go for a wee), and the Brisbane Public Library (to use the free internet). In Byron Bay, things are a lot more laid back and relaxed. (Probably because everyone's stoned). They have a really amazing lighthouse that I've been to on more than one occasion, and the other day I even saw a whale. Well, I think it was a whale. It was either that or the Dawn French of the dolphin world.