A tourist in my home town

I love Bundaberg. Really. I love this town like Carrie Bradshaw loves New York. I love Bundy when half of it is under water from a flood. I love it when it is 39 degrees and 90% humidity and putting your hands on the steering wheel can give you third degree burns. I love it when we haven’t had rain for 3 months (like right now), so it is dusty and on the brown side of green. I love it when black ash from the cane fires falls from the sky and the town smells like molasses from the mill.I may have been born here, but I live here because I choose to live here. Even growing up, when everyone else couldn’t wait to get out, I was happy here and I think I always knew I would come back. As fate would have it, I got my first job out of uni here, so I returned after only 4 years away. But you know what they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder.I tend to get defensive when anyone disses Bundy. The conversation usually goes along the lines of the 5 stages of grief:

  • Denial – “No, you can’t possibly hate this awesome place!”
  • Anger – “What the hell is wrong with you? Can’t you see how great it is?”
  • Bargaining – “Just try going to Woodgate Beach before you write us off. It’s great, trust me. Trust me.”
  • Depression – *sigh*. “I don’t know why I bother. Arguing with a fool just proves that there are two”
  • Acceptance – “You can lead a horse to water …” “You are crazy. I can’t argue with crazy” “There is clearly something wrong with you. You probably hate puppies. And rainbows.” (OK, so I probably don’t say these things out loud. I think they come out as more “Oh well, everyone is different”.)

So, I’ve been thinking of creating a more constructive outlet for my frustration with people who are wrong passion for my corner of the world. It has taken many different forms before settling on becoming a blog.

This idea probably started around the time I started travelling. There have been a few conversations about travel that stuck in my head, and that kept me pondering. So, here is the

1. The Question

On my first trip overseas (all the way across the ditch to New Zealand – original, I know) in 2009 I stayed in backpacker accommodation and met people from all over the world (although strangely enough very few Kiwis!). At one dinner table someone who was about to visit Australia and was planning their trip asked me what was my favourite place in Australia that I had been to.

That I had been to. Hmm. Of course, talking to an overseas tourist about iconic Australian destinations, my thoughts went immediately to Uluru. But, like many Aussies, I had never actually been there. I finally settled on Fraser Island, which is a just few hours travelling time from my house.  Fraser Island is absolutely spectacular, and I still think it is one of the greatest places to visit in the world. Which makes it even sillier to think that I live so close, and yet have only been once, on school camp. And I didn’t even see all of it. Even weirder, it didn’t top most overseas tourists must-see lists.

I made up my mind then to see more of Australia before my next overseas holiday. But then the GFC happened, and overseas flights got so cheap, that touring the homeland took a back seat.

2. The Argument

In May 2013, I travelled to the west coast of the USA with my parents. They renewed their wedding vows in Vegas so we also visited LA,  San Francisco, and a bunch of National Parks. They, not be constrained by 4 weeks annual leave each year, also visited Yellowstone, Colorado, Salt Lake City, Crazy Horse, Dakota, Salt Lake City and a few other places.

Talking about our trip when we returned home, they made the comment that the US has more variety to offer tourists than Australia. I vehemently disagreed. Although the US is amazing, and has some things we don’t (permanent snow, rivers through deserts, geysers, mountains high enough to give you altitude sickness) we also have some things that the US doesn’t – coral reefs and rainforests being the most notable.

If my parents, who are incredibly proud Australians and even work in the tourism industry, could think along these lines how many other Australians must think this too?

I had a similar disagreement with another friend of mine. She took her family to Fiji on holidays. They spent the entire time in the resort. Now, I’m sure it was an excellent resort, but I just cannot understand why someone would want to spend 8 hours on a plane to sit in a resort that looks the same as the ones 1 hour from home. Even more perplexing to me is wanting to go back again! Part of her argument was that the resort is all inclusive, and there isn’t anything like that in Australia. Umm, actually, Heron Island (about 3 hours from Bundaberg) is exactly like that. I’m pretty sure there are others further north (Dunk, Hamilton) also like that. But you don’t get a stamp in your passport for going, so why bother?

3. The Research

I started spending my lunch hours trawling through tourism websites. I even went old-school and walked down to our Information Centre. Seriously, I talked to someone in person. If that doesn’t prove my dedication …

Anyway, I observed a few things:

  • You come to Queensland to go to the beach, because Queensland has beaches. Lots of beaches. And some reef. Except for “The Outback”, which consists of the Stockman’s Hall of Fame in Longreach.
  • The beaches are at the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, the Whitsunday Islands and Port Douglas. No where else.
  • The Great Barrier Reef is off Cairns. It’s 1400 km long, but you can only see it from Cairns.
  • If you are doing a round Australia trip and blogging about it, or if you are operating coach tours, there is only one road (the Bruce Highway) between Hervey Bay to Rocky. You drive it as fast as you can, stay in Rocky 1 night because there is “nothing to see” and keep heading north. Total time in Central Qld – 2 days max. Sights seen – asphalt and roadside signs. Tick that off the bucket list.
  • If you enjoy hiking and are in Bundaberg, you can climb Mt Walsh. Or walk on the beach, cos we have lots of them, in case you didn’t know. Or go to Tasmania, because that is where great hiking is in Australia.
  • If you go searching for Bundaberg, you will find lots of pictures of turtles. At the beach. You may also see one photo of a pretty post office and a rum bottle.

In case you are not fluent in sarcasm, I find this list misleading so I just want to make a few things clear.

  • Yes, Queensland has some of the greatest beaches in the world. They are all up and down the coast, not just in the tourist meccas. Actually, the beach in Port Douglas pretty much sucks. Don’t go there for the beach.
  • We also have great food, wine, bushwalking, architecture, cultural attractions, festivals and events, people and history. All of this is in Central Queensland too.
  • You don’t have to go to Cairns to see the Great Barrier Reef. You can see it from Bundaberg and Agnes Waters. Seriously – you only need to drive 4 hours from Brisbane to see the reef. Qantas not required.
  • Bypassing central Queensland is a big mistake. Sticking only to the coast is also a big mistake. Reading what I have to say is a great idea.

4. The plan

Rather than sitting around my Mum’s kitchen table complaining about all of this, I decided to do something. Well, two things. Drumroll please …

  • Be a tourist in my hometown (really my home region, but that isn’t as pithy). Start doing and seeing all the things that I would boast about doing or seeing if they were overseas.
  • Write about it. Partly as a record, partly to try and encourage others to do the same, and partly to keep myself accountable to item 1. Because if I do touristy things and no one reads about it on the internet, did it really happen?

If you want to see some of the things I plan to do, see “The Plan” in the menu. The more I think, the more there is to do. I can’t decide if that is good or bad. Feel free to email me suggestions!

OK, so now to get started. Stay tuned …

2 thoughts on “A tourist in my home town

  1. I’m glad we decided to travel NZ first before the rest of the world, because it meant we could actually talk to people about our own country.

    I’ve never found a blogger from Bundaberg before! My husband has family there 🙂

    • I haven’t found one from Bundy yet either. Bush Babe of Oz (not a travel blog, but a country lifestyle/photography blog that is awesome) is from around Eidsvold, about an hour or so away, that’s the closest I’ve found so far.
      Isn’t it great being able to talk to people on your travels about your own country? I think a lot of it is about attitude, and seeing the best in any place you go. Mind you, it isn’t hard to see the best in NZ – I’ve been once, loved it, and will be back!

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