After about four hours of plenty of room to stretch out, the bus stopped at Hervey Bay and immediately filled up with backpackers.
See, there's a well-trodden backpacker route on the east coast of Australia. You start in either Cairns or Sydney, and you go north or south until you get to the other end. Everyone stops at places like Fraser Island, the Whitsundays, and Surfer's Paradise. If you have extra time, you add in smaller stops like Townsville, or you go all the way down to Melbourne.
That means that most people who have been traveling north with us so far are now headed to Fraser Island. We skipped that stop, so now we've passed them, and we're meeting everyone who just finished Fraser Island. Hervey Bay is the mainland gateway to that island, so our bus picked up everyone planning on the overnight bus to start their Whitsundays adventure from Airlie Beach (like us!).
After our stop at Hervey Bay, the bus went from quiet and peaceful to a madhouse of different languages. We were convinced we were the only native English speakers on the bus besides the driver. A lot of the people on our bus were part of an organized tour, and we got a good glimpse of what our trip could be like if we had planned it differently. To me, one of the biggest downsides of a tour is that you have little flexibility in where you go or when you go there. Another downside I hadn't thought of, though, is that it also seems to isolate you from the people around you. The people on this tour were pretty young, so I'm sure that was part of it, but they also definitely had the assumption that someone else would be taking care of everything for them. About half of them got on the bus without showing the bus driver their tickets, which led to a long procession of ticket holders up and down the aisle as the driver called them out one by one. They also trashed the bus. Where TJ and I used the rubbish bags provided at every seat to collect our trash and carry it off the bus with us, most of the other seats were strewn with candy wrappers and empty bottles. We were glad to be rid of them when the bus arrived in Airlie Beach...until we discovered them walking into our hostel! It's a pretty large hostel, though, so we're hoping that's the last we see of them.
We did wish there was more sun, though! TJ and I did a bit of shopping in town today, where he bought a hat, and I bought a sarong. We've both been shopping for these all along, so we were happy to finally find what we were looking for, and we wanted to show them off. We ended up stubbornly sitting beside the pool - in the rain! - waiting for the sun to come out. Our books were stuffed safely into a dry bag, waiting for our chance to read them. Eventually, the sun did come out, but it was almost behind the trees already, so we didn't get to enjoy it very long.
Today's biggest upset was discovering that we left my toiletry bag on the Greyhound bus. When you're traveling as light as we are, everything you carry is important, so I was feeling pretty helpless without it. We spent a while on the phone trying to track it down, and it looks like we'll be able to pick it up when we arrive in Cairns this weekend. In the meantime, though, I made a run down to the Chemist to buy the things I'll need for the next few days. Even sticking to basics like shampoo and a toothbrush, my total was over $30. Things are so expensive here! TJ reassures me that we would have to buy more sunscreen anyway, so it wasn't a total waste. And at least I had extras of contacts and medications in a separate bag, so I'm not completely without. It still hurt to add that number into our budget spreadsheet, though!