Published: August 30th 2005August 8th 2005
From Kangaroo point.
We couldn't really say we had visited Australia without indulging in the ancient Anglo-Australian art of imposing on distant relatives. Gill and Bob fullfilled their role admirably. After much thought and discussion we decided that Gill was Kim's second cousin. But only after a bottle of wine or two. The meeting had been suggested by Charles, Kim's Grandfather, who at the age of 95 has recently picked up email and the internet and is following our progress via this blog.
Thanks to the introduction of Richard Branson into the Australian market internal flights are now very affordable - last time I bussed the whole way round. I shudder when I think how many thousands of miles that was. We had looked at bus or train from Cairns to Brisbane but a check on the map told us it is roughly a one thousand mile trip and the prices of the air tickets were actually cheaper. I think we paid roughly 160 AUD to get to Brisbane and a further 140 AUD to get from Brisbane to Melbourne.
Despite our early arrival Gill and Bob were there to pick us up at the airport, which is a good hours drive
From Kangaroo Point. The cliffs on the right are top-roped and floodlit so climbers can hang loose all evening.
from their house on the other side of the city. We seemed to get on well with a lively discussion on the way back. Then Bob cooked us a good solid fry-up for breakfast and we sat and ate on the verandah of their house, overlooking a small wooded valley with gum trees full of kookaburras, whilst the cutest dogs Gidget and Gizmo skated exitedly between our legs on the slippy wooden floor. We missed our chance of a rest as the conversation continued until around lunchtime when Gill's daughters Jessica and Amy arrived with their associated beaus for the scheduled welcoming barbeque. Bob and Dirk cooked up a feast of marinated chicken, steak, sausage and assorted salads and dips prepared by Gill and Jessica. As the afternoon went on more wine and beer was drunk, sport was watched and the conversation on the verandah never flagged. Finally, at about half past seven in the evening the second test came on and so we decamped to watch England get themselves into a potential winning position. We slept very well that night.
Next day Bob and Gill offered us a choice of South or North. We had both been to
The South East Expressway
From Kangaroo Point. I'm sure this bridge has a better name, but my guidebook doesn't have it.
Surfers Paradise and the Gold Coast before so we thought we'd try the slightly less developed Sunshine Coast to the North of Brisbane. Our drive took us through typically Australian scenic backcountry with rolling hills, farms, forests of gum trees and the constant presence of the coast over your right shoulder. On the left we passed the Glasshouse Mountains, isolated pinacles that project out of the surrounding flat plain at dramatic angles, some rounded, some with steep faces and sharp spires. The local aborigines believe they are the petrified forms of a family fleeing the oncoming tide. We passed through small towns and villages with very Australian names such as Beerburrum, many of which now cater for the tourist trade by providing arts, crafts, coffee and cake so that the nearby citydwellers can come and relax.
For lunch we stopped at a favourite restaurant, perched on a hill with the front side open overlooking the coastal plain. The wine was from Marlborough, the bread home-cooked and the snapper and the seafood done beautifully. Quite simply the best western-style meal we've had since setting out for Estonia. This was followed up with a digestif of a few kilometres bushwalking to
From Bob and Gill's verandah.
a viewpoint overlooking a steep gorge, dammed at one end to form a pleasantly scenic lake. From our elevated position we watched what we thought to be a platypus swimming in the pools below.
Then back, to finish off the remnants of the previous days barbie and watch the end of what Richie Benaud called one of the greatest test matches he has ever seen.
Our final day with Gill and Bob was largely spent chilling, as Gill caught up with her ebay business and Bob put on his suit to go and test out the job market. However Bob took us out yet again to watch the sunset over Brisbane, which on that day, as I guess it is on most days at that time of year, was quite stunning.
Next morning they again went beyond the call of duty as Bob drove us to the airport before dawn and Gill accompanied to say our final farewells. We had a great time and can't praise Bob and Gill enough for their wonderful hosting.
One thing that struck me in our travels around Brisbane was how nice everything seemed, and how well off everyone seemed to
Gidget and Gizmo
be. Australian cities tend to do pretty well in the Economist magazine's analysis of the best places to live in the world - there are five in the top twelve. Measured on a range of parameters including such things as infrastructure, education, crime, environment, culture, events and climate, Brisbane ranks equal sixth, with the Scandinavian delights of Copenhagen and Oslo and the Swiss powerhouse of Zurich. Brisbane only dropped off top marks for climate (bizarrely) and transport. Not bad.
There are more photos below