Ginger beer, rum and sea turtles in Bundaberg

In an attempt to avoid too many beach towns, we decided to make a stop in Bundaberg on our way down Australia’s East coast. Known for its root beer and rum, Bundaberg is a farmer’s paradise, and it’s also a popular destination for those with working holiday visas trying to complete their first 88 days.

We arrived into Bundaberg first thing on a Monday morning when the sun was already high in the sky. After spending 16 hours travelling on an uncomfortable overnight bus, we were happy to stretch our legs and walk again. That is until we realised just how hot the town was.

Once we’d somehow crawled our way to the hostel in a breeze-free 28C, we took one look at the shuttered doors and felt like we wanted to pass out on the pavement. It was afternoon by the time we were checked into our rooms, but we didn’t stay long before we were heading back out towards the Bundaberg Rum Distillery. Somehow walking 45 minutes on a super hot day had seemed like a good idea. It wasn’t. By the time we got there I was a mess, but the air conditioned building was a delightful treat.

Our tour guide appeared shortly after we arrived and we got straight onto the tour. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed anything with batteries in the facility, so the photos we captured were limited. The tour was fun though and it was interesting to see how the rum is made here. Afterwards we were given a couple of free drinks and I was pretty pleased to be drinking good alcohol again. I’ve missed my whiskeys.

While in the bar area at the end of the tour we started chatting a lady and her grandson, who offered to drive us back into town as she was heading that way. I jumped at the chance to sit in an air-conditioned car rather than melt for 45 minutes walking back. As a bonus treat, we were driven to a local lookout point on the top of an ancient and tiny inactive volcano. We got to see Bundaberg from seemingly the only hill in town and were given all sorts of information on the area too.

We were still a little tipsy when we go back to the hostel after 3 rum drinks each, but we just took it easy, cooked dinner and watched School of Rock with Ellen, one of the girls staying in our dorm room.

Our second day in Bundaberg was meant to be more productive than the first. In fact the only reason we booked two nights was to try and be productive, but new towns have a way of taking over your time. We set off early to make a quick visit to the Bundaberg Barrel, which is where they make Bundaberg Ginger Beer.

The little interactive exhibition on site was fun, though probably not worth the $10 admission fee. We really enjoyed the tasting afterwards though and got to try 17 flavours of soft drinks. As we were tasting, the head brewer just happened to be hanging around and we were able to ask him a few extra questions about the drinks and the process. We left with a 6 pack of our favourite flavours and ran for the bus back to the hostel.

Back in the hostel we tried an failed to be prooductive, which is no big surprise. We just about managed to book one Airbnb but spent most of the time chatting and playing cards with some other guests. Although it frustrates me a little when I don’t get the things I wanted done, I forgive myself a loot sooner I if it means we’ve had fun with people on the trip. I’d much rather make new memories than stare at a screen writing down existing ones.

On the evening of our second day in Bundaberg we’d booked a sea turtle experience, following the advice from our Airbnb host on Magnetic Island. We were picked up at 6pm and taken in a minibus to the Mon Repos Turtle Centre, where we waited excitedly to see turtles hatching once the sun was down. Having booked on the express bus we were in group one, so it was pretty soon after we arrived that we were led to the beach in the dark.

Following a short introduction, plus a warning about having no artificial light to confuse the turtles, our guide lifted the lid on the nest and 110 tiny baby loggerhead turtles started climbing out. It was amazing to see them head towards the single head torch, where they were picked up and safely put into a cage ready for a controlled trip to the sea.

Once all the turtles were out we lined up down the beach and six people with torches, including Mark, formed a separate line down the middle with their legs set far apart. At the top of the beach they released the turtles and they all made their way towards the light, through the six pairs of legs and into the sea where one of the turtle centre volunteers stood with the final torch.

The whole thing was brilliant and it’s crazy knowing none of those little turtles will even reappear until they’re at least 17, then won’t mate until they’re 30. If I had a bucket list, I’m pretty sure it would be full of animal experiences like this one.

Being on this trip has made me realise how much I love being around animals and just watching the them do their thing. Before I left I had a pretty good idea this was the case, but I’m finding some of my favourite experiences have revolved around animals. I’ve even stopped buying meat products, feeling like I can’t enjoy them as living things if I’m willing to have them killed for the sake of a mediocre dinner.

I feel so privileged to have experienced everything I have on this trip and I can’t wait to see what comes next. Who knows, maybe I’ll even see a dragon when we ead over to Middle Earth next month.

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