I left Airlie Beach, one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been, and headed to Rockhampton. It was a lot of driving – 300 miles (482 kilometers). There were mountains in the distance, but as I went south, they got smaller. Then the drive was pretty flat, passing by sugarcane fields.
During the drive, I listened to an audiobook, 12 Rules For Life. It was great because there are a lot of good life-lessons and it made me think.
I stopped for lunch at a restaurant that was inside of a cabin in the middle of nowhere. I sat outside and made a call to pay for my speeding ticket. I got the fee back down to the original $435 (instead of more than $1,000 it got up to with late fees), but it was still painful.
When I arrived in Rockhampton, I pulled over to book a motel. It wasn’t very nice, but it was just for one night. I remember when I first left Los Angeles, and I stayed at a two-star, crappy motel. I felt sad at that time, afraid that was my life after giving up my well-paying job. After more than a year of traveling full-time and needing to save money in an expensive country, I didn’t mind those crappy motels so much.
The next morning, I ate some cereal and toast provided by the motel. I was the only person there, likely because it was already 9:40 am. I continued driving towards Bundaberg. One road sign read, “Fatigue Zone: Take a rest and refresh.”
There were also signs with trivia questions. A mile or so later, the answer would appear on another sign. The instructions read, “Keep playing trivia. It might save your life.”
There was a lot of road construction with a speed limit of 60 kph (37 mph). I made sure to follow the limits because I wasn’t about to get another ticket. It was annoying, though, because construction would clear up for a mile, and then another construction section would start.
I continued listening to 12 Rules For Life, and this time, the chapters were about raising children. He talked about how children need discipline to set themselves up for success.
I arrived at Bundaberg, a population of 93,000. Bundaberg is a town, but it is also a company that makes rum and many other sugary drinks. In the U.S., you can find their ginger beer, but that’s about it. In Australia, they have so many flavors; it takes up a four-section of the grocery store. My favorite is lemon-lime.
The distillery offers rum tours, so I signed up for one. I had an hour to kill, so I grabbed a sandwich at their outdoor cafe. While I ate, I received a Hopper notification about a flight from Hobart, Tasmania, to Los Angeles for $540. Hopper lets you set your destination and departure city, and then it will alert you when there’s a great deal. I thought it was a pretty good deal, but it had a 10-hour layover. The layover was in Hawaii, though, so not a bad place to rest. I quickly booked the flight because deals don’t usually last.
I browsed through the showroom, and there were walls of rum bottles with posters explaining the history. One sign read, “During the Second World War, the Government of England had “nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.” The Australian Government, on the other hand, was quite generous. It gave its soldiers rum.”
They go on to explain that some Royal Navy vessels carried over 5,000 gallons for the sailors. Many soldiers from England, Australia, and America enjoyed some R & R. The sign read, “The fact that so many of them mixed it with cola didn’t escape notice, and the fine minds at Bundaberg were quick to bottle: Bundy and Cola,” one of the world’s very first mixed drinks. Genius.”
It was time for the tour, and there were just seven of us. Two people were Americans, two were from the U.K., and two were from Australia.
Here are some things I learned on tour:
- They produce 33 million liters of rum a year.
- The rum is mostly consumed in Australia (96%!), and most of that is in Queensland. New Zealand consumes 3%, and the rest of the world consumes 1%.
- All of the Bundaberg rum is made at that facility.
The tour guide took us to the molasses pit, and it was six meters (20 feet) deep! It was stored in a large wooden building. We climbed on a platform that overlooked the dark molasses. The entire building was full of it. I can only imagine what a horrible death that would be if you fell into it.
At the end of the tour, we were taken to the tasting room to pick a couple of rums to sample. I sat at a tall, round table, and then the couple from the U.K. joined me. They were Charlie and Hettie and were in their early 30s. They were traveling around Australia for nine months.
It turned out that they were house-sitting too! They were the first people that I had met who also used TrustedHousesitters. Before leaving the U.K., they did four house-sits to build up reviews. They had completed five in Australia at that point. I was thrilled to talk with people who understood house and pet-sitting.
The couple had watched dogs, which I feel is a lot more work than watching cats. In a few days, they were going to start a two-week sit that included horses and cats. Hettie had experience with horses, so she knew what was involved with their care. We all agreed that the homeowner gets a better deal out of the arrangement because watching the house and animals can be a lot of work, depending on the situation. I mean, they were about to care for horses! Even still, it was great to meet locals and have a place to stay for free.
Charlie and Hettie started in Melbourne and did the same route as I did around the country, except they didn’t see the country’s center. They were on their way south to Sydney.
Before leaving the U.K., the couple saved up their money for six months by living in a box so they would be able to afford to travel long term. They both worked in T.V. production in London. When they got to Sydney, their plan was for Charlie to get some work because he had a work visa. They pointed out how Americans don’t have to do farm work on a traveling work visa in Australia, but Europeans do.
I loved talking with them! Charlie and Hettie were the first people that I met who were traveling similar to me. They were working professionals who saved up to go on this grand adventure. They had purchased a car in Australia and slept in the back, often taking advantage of all of the free camping. They had seen most of the country and experienced a local feel by house and pet-sitting.
The distillery was closing soon, so I hurried up and bought a few items. Charlie and Hettie had walked five kilometers (3 miles) to the distillery from the caravan park they were staying at. As they got close, an American girl picked them up when she saw them running. They were afraid that they’d miss the tour. She drove them the last little bit. I offered to give them a ride back to their caravan park.
When we got into the car, the audiobook, 12 Rules For Life, came on. I turned it off, but Charlie asked about the author, Jordan Peterson. Charlie knew a little bit about him. I explained that Peterson is Canadian, taught at Harvard for years, and is a psychologist. I didn’t understand why he had suddenly become controversial because the book didn’t seem to say anything crazy. It focused on psychology and the lessons he’s learned as a psychologist. Charlie said he might check out the book because it sounded interesting.
I dropped Charlie and Hettie off at the caravan park, and we connected on social media. We agreed to communicate in a few days when we were all in Noosa at the same time.
I continued driving, and it was dark outside, creating tons of bugs smashing against my windshield. After an hour and 15 minutes, I arrived at Hervey Bay. I sat in my car in a Woolworth’s parking lot and booked a hotel. Then I went inside to grab a few food items.
By the time I arrived at the hotel, it was 8:00 pm, and the lobby was about to close. The woman who checked me in was the owner. She was from China and told me about the eco-lodge. She was really friendly and handed me a few brochures of tours I might want to book.
I parked my car outside of my unit, and the grounds were beautiful! The eco-lodge was nestled in a forest, but yet it was still in town. My room was pretty basic and nothing fancy, but it would do for a few nights. I felt fatigued and had a headache, sort of like sinus pressure.
The next morning, I was exhausted. I woke up to the sounds of housekeeping in the next room. I played on my phone but didn’t want to get out of bed. Suddenly, housekeeping opened my door. I raced over in my pajamas and told her I didn’t want any cleaning.
Then I fell back asleep. I felt sick. My stomach was hurting, and I had a headache. My body overall felt terrible. I was so tired that I was dreaming about falling asleep!
In my first dream, I was at a ticket booth for a suspension bridge, and a woman told me about a tower that I should go up. I looked up, and sure enough, there was a tower. The woman told me to keep going, and I asked her, “So this is a whole theme park, not just a bridge?” She said it was and I bought a ticket. However, I kept falling asleep at the booth and was in a haze.
In the second dream, I was swimming in a lake and kept nodding off. I drifted to a bank with long grass, and there were people on the grass looking at me. They said there was one crocodile in there and that I should get out. I slowly moved to get out but couldn’t move well. The crocodile was moving in, but I was so tired that I almost didn’t care.
Sometimes my dreams are so vivid; it messes with my mind! I think I was resisting sleep, but my body was forcing me to. I slept on and off for hours. I finally got out of bed, ate, and researched things to do. I was starting to feel like my body couldn’t do any more tours. My dreams seemed like a warning that I needed sleep, not outings.
I wrote for my blog and tried to be productive. People don’t always realize that traveling is work – and that work was starting to catch up to me. It’s constant research, doing, seeing, experiencing, driving, and in my case, writing. It’s why I’ve gotten so behind in my blog.
Trying to feel productive, I drove down to the jetty (pier). I walked down it, checking out the views. The jetty was almost a kilometer long. It was already evening, and I tried to let go of the guilt for “wasting the day.”
I stood at the end, watching the sunset. The tide was far back into the ocean, so the sand was exposed. It was getting colder and colder outside, and I realized that I was definitely getting farther south.
I drove to a café and ate a chicken schnitzel. I still wasn’t feeling well, so I went back to the motel to rest. The next day, I had an early morning tour, and I needed to be better by then. My time was running out in Australia, and I wanted to see everything while I could.
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