Sunday, September 4, 2011

Touring the 'burbs

Once we arrived in Hervey Bay we discovered that it doesn't really exist.  No one actually lives in Hervey Bay.    I'm not sure whether the way Australia is divided up was because of the postal service, or what, but it is interesting.  Australia is divided into all these little suburbs (that's what they call them, but don't envision US burbs).  If you are in a dense area the suburb can only be a few kilometers square.  If you are in the country, sometimes they are larger areas.  The city of Hervey Bay is actually made up of over a dozen suburbs even though it only has about 30,000 people.  When people ask where you are from in other parts of Australia or even just the next town over they say Hervey Bay, or sometimes just The Bay.  It's only if you actually live in Hervey Bay that someone wants to know your suburb, but it's really just asking, "So what part of town do you live in?"  So while everyone will tell you they live in HB, their mailing address will be Point Vernon (our burb) or Scarness or Piabla, etc.  Katie suggested this would be sort of like saying you live in your county, but it's still not quite the same, but probably the best analogy.

Once discovering this tidbit, we decided to take a day and visit most of the suburbs of the Bay.  Here's a map so you can get a better idea of what I'm trying to describe:

Hopefully you can still read some of the tiny print.  You'll notice that the biggest type says Hervey Bay, and this picture is pretty much all HB.  We live in Point Vernon, which is the the leftmost peninsula that juts out into the water.  The rightmost peninsula is Urangan.  The suburbs stretch from Burrum Heads (top left corner) to River Heads (bottom right).  I tried to zoom in enough you can get an idea of how many suburbs there were, but they still don't list all of them.  I'd have to zoom in even more, and then the print would be even tinier.  

We went north first, and stopped in the happening (sarcastic) town of Toogoom.  It turned out to be pretty typical of most of the suburbs.  There was a park, a fish and chips takeaway, and a boat ramp.  Still, it was pretty.  

We continued north through lots of cows grazing by the ocean, which is still bizarre to us.  If you are near the ocean, there should be hotels and high rise condos, not livestock.  Burrum Heads was the biggest town north of Point Vernon and boasted a small grocery store, bakery, fish and chips takeaway, and even a couple of shops.  We stopped for some caffeine, and then drove back south.  Most of the town is located in the burbs Pialba, Scarness, Torquay, and Urangan.  The first three I just listed we had already explored pretty extensively since that's where all the grocery stores, restaurants, and good beach parks are located.  We hadn't gotten as far as Urangan yet though.  They are famous for their pier, which stretches a full kilometer into the bay.  We walked the length of it even though it was rather windy.  

The Bay is interesting in that it is full of sandbars--very large ones.  Some of the beaches you can go straight to the water, but many of them you have to navigate through the sandbars.  Here's an example of a particularly long one along the pier.

After the pier we got back in the car and went all the way down to River Heads where you can take the barge to Fraser Island.  It also was not a big town, mostly just the jumping off point to Fraser.  Fraser is so close there, you feel like you could just swim over.  Here it is:

It is not advisable to swim, however.  That's actually putting it mildly.  While swimming in the bay by where we live is perfectly safe, Fraser is surrounded by crocodiles, box jellyfish (the kind that if they don't kill you, you continue to scream even while unconscious), and if that were not enough, the side of Fraser that faces the ocean instead of the bay is also shark infested.  The only swimming on Fraser is in the lakes or resort pools.  

After River Heads, we went back to Urangan because they were having a "Rock the Marina" event where there were supposed to be market stalls, a jumping castle, and live music.  The local paper pumped it as a spectacular event the the community was rallying behind.  Apparently the community did not get the memo.  We found no music, 8 stalls selling crap, and I don't think they were allowing adults in the jumping castle, which was the one thing that interested me.  So we went snorkeling instead.  See:

Just kidding.  I'll show you the wider shot here, and you'll be able to tell I'm lying.  

Unless Australia has installed poker machines in the bottom of the Great Barrier Reef, that is.  We were investigating the Boat Club, which happened to be on the marina and had a lovely fish tank.  Our host had suggested it to us for good dining and live music.  They have lots of clubs here.  The RSL (veterans based), Golf Clubs, Bowling Clubs, we even went to one in South Australia called the Working Man's Club.  They all have a couple of things in common:  a room dedicated to gambling and reasonably priced food.  They are all generally open to visitors.  It's not like Vegas or Reno, though, with their giant sprawling casinos.  It's one room that if you don't go into, you might not know that it is there as it doesn't generate a lot of noise.  It would seem to me that a lot more people come to take advantage of the food.  We weren't there to eat this time, though, so we headed back home.

Other than this little trip we haven't done much in the past week.  Our internet went out, so we spent a bit of energy trying to get that fixed.  We did go to the Baptist small group on Wednesday, which we we enjoyed a lot.  The study was good, and the people were very friendly.  It was a wonderful mix of singles, married with and without kids, and even a good age range.  We also met a woman at the Anglican church this week from the UK that is visiting for 6 weeks.  We invited her to join us at McDonald's after the service for dinner, so we had a nice long chat with her and exchanged emails so hopefully we can hang out again.  

This week we hope to explore the cities of Maryborough and Bundaberg, both about 45 minutes away.  I also finally found a couple of tents in the carport, and are airing them out.  We might use them to explore some of the national parks within a couple hours drive of here.

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