Gold Coast, Surfers Paradise
We have been steaming up the coast as we feel the time for our roadtrip is getting ever shorter! Therefore, we have chosen where to go carefully rather than drifting up the coast, which is what we would like to do ideally. We could spend much longer exploring but it’s necessary to be back in Perth in April and we feel we are getting enough of an impression to allow us to know the east coast well enough to come back to certain parts in the future. How will we adapt to being back? And work?!
On our way to Brisbane we could not leave out the glittering Gold Coast and Surfers Paradise. Surfers Paradise is the actual name of the city and home to the iconic beach fringed by high rises. You will have seen it in many tourist programmes as a fly-over and in the opening for I’m a celebrity get me out of herein the UK. We didn’t fly over the coastline but I had to have a look at this enormously long stretch of sand next to the tallest, most glittery skyscrapers.
The surf was strong and the beach was in fact closed but that didn’t hold back the crowds. Lifesavers were present and on high alert as you can’t stop people from going into the water as one of them told me. I spoke with him when I saw him careering towards a nearby spot, yelling at some swimmers to get away from the rip. I had studied rips before on YouTube but was never sure if I would spot one myself so I asked him how he knew.
He pointed out a darker spot of water to me, explaining that the water was deeper there, which creates a channel that sucks you out into the ocean. As it is deeper, the water looks calmer than the water to the left and right of it, but it has the undertow. The general advice in case you are sucked into the rip is to drift out with it as fighting a rip is pointless and it would tire you out. Once you are further out in the ocean and the rip loses strength, you can then swim back to the right or the left of it, drifting back to the beach. If you are a strong swimmer you can try to swim sideways out of the rip, parallel to the beach, until you are back in the normal surf breaks. Better to avoid I think! I wouldn’t fancy being flushed 100m out into the deep blue all by myself. How to spot a rip:
The Goldcoast is a pumping busy stretch of coast, full of clubs, all the usual fast food groups and home to bronzed gym-junkies and Dreamworld, Australia’s largest theme park. Not my cuppa but I had to see it. The water and the beach itself were beautiful and the surf has this insistent quality about it that says, I mean business.
So we drove on to the capital of Queensland, Brisbane. I had not had a clear idea about this city, no buildings or bridges sprang to mind that I had seen before. I had read up on it and knew that the river was dominant, that there were a lot of bridges and that the City Hall was worth a look.
First, though, we took a train from the city to Riverview to meet up with Dave Collins, a radio buff who Roddy knows from Q-MAC days. The two had never met in person, but David has sold quite a few Q-MAC HF90s over the years so they got to know each other at a distance, which in a way is appropriate for radio people. David picked us up from the tiny Moggill cable ferry that took us over a wide, brown river next to the train station in his 1964 burgundy open-top Mustang and drove us to his house. Here he showed us the Q-MAC gear he still has and the latest radios that are being produced now by Barrett the company that bought Q-MAC. Roddy was in his element talking technical and I got used to the Queensland heat, drinking gallons of water and staying in the shade. David drove us to a restaurant for lunch and a very nice time was had by all. The area is quite rural and horsey which is lovely, being so close to the city.
Brisbane is a bustling city inland from Morton Bay and centred around the bends of the Brisbane river. As such it was a fertile land occupied by Aboriginal tribes such as the Yuggera and the Turrbal. This was long before the white invaders formed a penal colony there for repeat offenders from New South Wales. You could therefore say that the convicts of Queensland are the toughest of the tough! Joking!
We did go to see the City Hall and discovered that Brisbane was named after the Governor General of New South Wales, Thomas Brisbane from Largs in Scotland! Largs is up the road from Troon, so very close to my Scottish home. The wooden door from Brisbane House in Largs, Scotland was later gifted to Brisbane, Queensland (see photo further down).
We also visited the clock tower and the magnificent organ. The guide who took the tour was very proud to tell us that the Brisbane clock tower is the tallest in Australia, taller than the one in Sydney. City rivalry I guess. Brisbane is the third largest city after Sydney and Melbourne but only a little bit bigger than Perth.
Outside the City Hall a student fair took place. Lots of stalls had been set up by different universities and colleges, as well as student welfare organisations. This event was used by the Lord Mayor to address potential new students, inviting and urging them to move to Brisbane to take advantage of everything the city has to offer and to contribute to its diversity. An Aboriginal group shared culture by talking about their local history and by performing a series of traditional hunting dances, accompanied by the didgeridoo, percussion sticks and song.
Brisbane has a very “involved” feel transportwise. Dystopian bus lanes disappear mysteriously underground, avoiding the gridlock of street traffic, sucking buses right into the heart of the city without delay. A low key shopping mall turn out to be central station. A maze of bridges span across the winding coils of the river, bridges for pedestrians, for cars and for trains. Rentable scooters are very popular and you can see these apple green run-arounds with their exhilarated, apple-green behelmeted riders everywhere. Long-boards too are popular and “drive” on the road. Last but not least, ferries dominate the rush hour traffic and the traffic throughout the day. Some ferries are fast and cost a few dollars, while others are slower with more stops but free to use.
We set off at 5.30pm on the free ferry that zigzags down stream from North Quay. A ferry is always a great way to see a city as you can sit back, having the luxury to look around without having to drive yourself. Mind you, I prefer to stand with the wind in my hair, enjoying the rush. As we are further north now we have observed how much earlier it gets dark, so by the time the ferry reached its terminus and turned round to scuttle back upriver, it was dark and the lit up city presented itself to us in all its splendour. The beautiful iron Story bridge was now lit up in purple and the ferry ride that was meant as a recce turned into a most unexpected romantic river experience. Story Bridge was the first bridge to be built in Brisbane and was designed by the architect who also created the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It’s obvious when you know!
On our last day we visited the Queensland Parliament and the Botanic Gardens. We joined a small guided tour for a look around. Apart from a staircase we were not allowed to take any photos of the interior of the Parliament, which seemed strange at first. However, when we realised that the Building is directly bordered by the Computing Faculty of the University (Hackers) on one side, the Botanic Gardens and a busy main road on the other sides, it became obvious that the Parliament is potentially quite vulnerable.
Brisbane’s collection of skyscrapers is impressive and beautiful. It’s tropical feel is palpable, especially in its parks such as the Botanic Gardens where you stumble over Waterdragons! Quite scary at first – mini dinosaurs everywhere!
David had suggested a streetfood market called Eatstreet in Hamilton Northshore so we headed back up the river the following night. Dongars (ships containers) are stacked on top of each other and converted into an atmospheric and varied streetfood market sprinkled with fairy lights and live music. It was here that I had my first experience of Morton Bay Bugs, a special type of crustaceans, typical of Brisbane. It was so good, we had two portions. That way the chubb is not going to leave me any time soon but it was worth it! Apart from life music and all types of food, there are second hand book shops and knicknack stalls.
On the way back the ferry stopped at purple lit Story Bridge as the city had organised fireworks for International Women’s Day! It was a total surprise to us and the other passengers and made the evening extra special. Walking back to our bus stop, Brisbane was pumping on this Friday night, our last night there. What a fabulous ending it was to our stay in a city that I didn’t have many expectations of but somehow fell a little bit in love with.