Journalling Down Under – Part 2: Australia

If you’ve missed Part 1 and want to catch up, just click here

Brisbane

We were met at Brisbane airport by Pete’s cousin Beth who “ran away from home” and settled in Australia some 20 years ago! So far, of the 5 days since we set off from home, two whole nights have been spent on a plane, watching time zones slip past us, and trying to keep our body clocks in sync! Not easy when dinner is delayed by a couple of hours because of turbulence in the Singapore skies and you’re offered breakfast about 5 am so they can have everything clear for a 07.30 landing!

Beth and her family met us at the airport and took us home via the scenic route. They took us to breakfast along a coast road overlooking the waters of Moreton Bay, to Redcliffe where the eateries, although not grand, are full of locals who know what good food tastes like. After delicious cake and ice cream for breakfast (!) we strolled along the beach road to Redcliffe’s claim to fame, Bee Gees Way, where the famous brothers spent their early years growing up and making music. There are statues and tributes and posters lining both sides of the road. Again, it’s not grand – it doesn’t need to be – because it’s original, genuine, it really is the seaside town where they grew up.

If you were a Bee Gees fan like me in the 70s, you’ll enjoy this touching story from Barry Gibb talking about his memories of living there with his brothers.

My phone decided to give up on me this week, so the photos I took then are forever lost, but we managed to revisit on our final evening when we had our last meal with Pete’s lovely cousin and her husband and his son who had all made us feel very, very welcome!

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Moreton Island

Mostly, only the perimeter of Australia is populated, further inland it’s just too damn hot! But I didn’t know that there are many islands just a little way off the coast which have a very amenable climate and make lovely holiday destinations. Moreton Island, an hour’s ferry ride from the city of Brisbane, was where we went on Sunday.

We spent much of the afternoon at Tangalooma Island Resort, and enjoyed a boat tour around the Tangalooma Wrecks, where we saw groups of snorkellers exploring sunken ships that had been scuttled to form wave breaks to protect the sandy beaches of Moreton Island. Apparantly, the natural action of the sea erodes the shoreline so much that it is a metre further from mainland Australia every year!

After lunch, we explored the shoreline a bit more, (saw a real live kukkaburra!) and in the evening we fed some wild dolphins. There’s a nice story attached to how the Tangalooma dolphin feeding project began, but don’t forget to come back and read about the rest of my travels!

The Great Barrier Reef

Once rested, the following day we borrowed Beth’s car and drove to a port where we jumped onto a catamaran and headed out to the Great Barrier Reef – wow what an experience!

The weather was hot and sunny but on the windy side, so the trip bouncing at speed across the choppy waters did make me just a little bit queasy, and I decided not to venture onto the top deck in the sunshine.

Once arrived at the reef, we moored at a kind of pontoon called Marineworld, all kitted out for a whole day of snorkelling, helmet diving, “snuba” diving, or whatever took your fancy. This was almost like a floating hotel – it’s a permanent construction with power, plumbing and accommodation for the staff who stay overnight, and of course, everything we needed to explore the reef and the inhabitants of this part of the underwater world.

Pete and I played it safe and just snorkelled, (dressed like fat seals) but I got to test out my underwater camera and I’m pleased to say it passed!

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Brisbane to Cairns

Several days later we arrived in Cairns! Nice little hotel with tropical plants everywhere, so good to jump into that pool on arrival!

We did the Kuranda Skyrail that week, a cable car journey of over 4 km, soaring up and over dense rainforest! We stopped off at viewing platforms a couple of times to look at gorgeous waterfalls in full flood since the recent rainy season, looking out for vivid blue doves, arriving finally at Kuranda village.  After a drink and a look around at the heritage market, we took a ride back on a scenic railway, which winds around and through tunnels cut through this very hilly part of Queensland.

It was as we got off the train, down three very steep metal steps, that my flipflopped foot skidded off the bottom one and I did a faceplant, narrowly avoiding falling between the train and the platform! A bit grazed, but I was more embarrassed than injured as a few people saw me go! Pete saved my bag, but didn’t have enough hands to break my fall! Could’ve been a lot worse!

Cairns to … Cairns?

It turned out we had an extra day and night in our little tropical hotel in Cairns due to a mix-up with the date of our flight. Although the agent had sent us an email a day or two before our due departure date, they had only highlighted the change of departure time, not mentioning that the date had also changed to the following day!  In addition to this, they hadn’t thought to book us an extra night in the Cairns hotel so it was only on arrival at the airport, all packed up and ready to fly, that we realised the error – and panicked!

We tried to call the agent, only to have the call go straight to voicemail after a message to tell us that they were closed for the weekend! How odd when they have holiday-makers in the air or abroad every day of the year! After discovering we could take a Sydney-routed flight that day to Auckland at a cost of AU$1,000 each, we called the little hotel we’d just checked out of and to our relief, we were able to check back in.

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Once there, we decided what we really wanted to do was roast in the sun by the pool and drink cocktails – something we hadn’t yet had time to do! That evening, we re-visited a good old English pub called The Cock & Bull and had the biggest plates of food I have ever seen. I’m sorry to say I could only manage about a quarter of it – my chicken Mexicana was piled high with guacamole, cheese and salsa, with fries on top and a generous garnish of salad on top of that! Later we saw the Death by Chocolate dessert but were quite happy to just observe a family of 6 demolishing it! I think we’d have missed the next day’s flight if we’d eaten any more!

Flight Number 5 of 6!

The final week of our trip was the part I’d most been looking forward to – roughing it in a camper van! But I’ll leave that for another day. Come back soon!

 

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