Our safari – a final post

Saturday April 27, 2019

Luke Bastian writes the final post from the 20 days and thousands of kilometers on the Rotary Youth Exchange Australian Safari – Byron Bay to Melbourne.

The “eastiest” (most easterly?) point of the mainland and the lighthouse was about a 9km return hike from the lunch stop. Little surprise there were only a few of us who opted for this, most taking up the other activity on offer: retail therapy in Byron Bay.

Prada - retail therapy - corrected
Did someone say “retail”?

After a “drive-by” of the Big Banana, the last tent setup happened in Coffs Harbour and was not surprisingly the fastest. A well oiled machine no doubt, but no one was shedding any tears that we have two nights of real beds waiting for us in Sydney.

Big Banana Photo
The Big Banana!

Our last nightly camp-fire circle briefing, saw awards presented, prizes given for the daily bus trivia questions, lost property auction and flag signing.

On the road by 7 am, with lunch on the banks of the Hunter River at Raymond Terrace, we rolled across the “Big Coathanger” (Sydney Harbour Bridge) earlier than expected as Anzac Day traffic was light.     Not expecting flash digs at the hostel, we were all pleasantly surprised at the quality of  Youth Hostels Australia.

A quick evening walk to Chinatown for a banquet, and afterwards some detoured to see the nearby sights on the way back to the rooms.

Friday’s adventure (April 26) in the big city started with a ferry tour of Sydney

Bondi Lifesavers - corrected
A captured moment with the Bondi Beach lifesavers

Harbour, with free time to explore the rest of the day. Some went to Manly, others to Bondi Beach, a few to Taronga Zoo, others just wandering the city or visiting Paddy’s Market: before a revolving buffet restaurant meal at Centrepoint Tower.

There must be an enforced building height in Sydney’s CBD:  when I last went up the Westfield Tower in the 80’s it was the tallest building in the city. And 40 years later it still is! (Ed:  Sydney Tower – Centrepoint Tower is the tallest structure on the Sydney horizon, and the second tallest observation tower in the Southern Hemisphere).The view has changed but nothing is taller than the restaurant as it swept through its hourly panorama of the greater Sydney landscape at night.

On Saturday it was goodbye to a still sleeping city at 5:45 am. First stop will be Canberra where we will say farewell to our two seasoned chaperones and half of the exchange students, some who fly back to Queensland. At Bendigo we drop the kitchen trailer, and cooks, swap out drivers, and dispatch another dozen or so students. Then it was the final 2 hours to Melbourne.

Teary farewells at each drop off point we do expect,  but it’s a time variable we can’t anticipate. Mechanical issues aside we should arrive back at the starting point 20 days and 12 hours after leaving, close to 10,000km later and happy to be

Thanks Rotary for keeping the spirit of adventure alive with the Youth Exchange Program.

Post script:  Luke & Perri are both back in Melbourne, and there is a side note (not published) about the welcome comfort of one’s own bed!