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Published: January 24th 2016
I was really sorry to be leaving Byron Bay behind but our journey up the east coast wouldn't continue without moving on. Its always hard to leave behind places that you really like ... No matter, Surfers Paradise sounded as though it would be just as good so back on the Greyhound bus it was. We travelled on the M1 (no, not like our M1, this was also known as the Pacific Highway so there was a bit of a difference!). The landscape was very green and verdant, mainly agricultural with lots of cows. Many of those looked typically European to my layman's eye (Fresian, Hereford) but there were some with a bit of a hump and longer droopy ears; I think I'm right in saying these are Brahman cattle and though they originate in the USA they looked a bit Indian to me and a little out of place in the Australian landscape - though why that should be I've no idea, just my impression! We headed towards Brunswick Heads (passing No Name Lane on the way - remember what I said about uninspired name choices?!) and stopped at Chinderah for our comfort break.
All the drivers made a
big thing about crossing state borders, making sure to let us know just where the boundaries were and where we were leaving/moving in to. It was all a bit strange to me initially, I mean we don't make a big fuss about crossing between one county and another, do we? Some of us even live in God's Own County and still don't make a big song and dance about it (well, a little hop, skip and jump maybe). I later discovered that there was some degree of reason to this as sometimes different rules and regs apply in different states and you might just need to be aware of those, depending what kind of activities you get up to. The other thing that was quite significant when crossing a state boundary was that this quite often involved a time change too.
Now, I'd been struggling with all these different time zones when they happened between countries and it proved to be beyond my mental capacity when they happened within the same country. Pfffft. Let me tell you, that's nothing. When we reached a town called Coolangatta the driver announced that we were moving from New South Wales into the
state of Queensland. OK, I could just about get my head round that. This involved a time change of minus one hour, he said - okaaaay-ish, but are we moving backwards or forwards through time? Not only that, the driver pointed out, the state boundary ran right through the town so New South Wales was on the right side of the road operating in one time zone and Queensland was on the left side of the road operating in another. That was just beyond me. What if you lived on the right but worked on the left? Would you lose an hour of your life travelling to work but then gain it back on the way home? Or the other way round? What if you wanted to meet a friend for lunch and she lived on one side of the street and you on the other? Would you keep missing each other? Would you ever get your kids to school on time? Would you always be late for your dental appointment? Would you have to keep adjusting your watch? Oh no, it was all far too much for me to cope with and I could quite see now why someone
thought it perfectly reasonable to live on No Name Lane. Why waste brain cells?
Our bus moved across to Route 2 which hugged the coast and took us through Bilinga, Palm Beach, Miami, Gold Coast and into Surfers Paradise. The town had a bus station but, sadly, there were once again no taxis to be seen. It's not rocket science is it? People getting off buses with luggage in a strange country generally appreciate a taxi ride to get them someplace .... Ho hum. We did the usual verbal dance with Steve saying it wasn't far and we'd walk and me adopting that crab-like sideways walk scanning all directions for a passing taxi to flag down. Steve's tactic won out on this occasion (ok, it really wasn't far but it was far enough to need a drink when we got there).
Steve's normal request for a room on a high floor also paid off this time because Surfers has lots of high-rise hotels and we were in a corner room on the 10th floor of the Chateau Beachside right on the beach. Steve thought the view was wonderful, with dual aspect down to the beach and along the
prom and, if you like that kind of thing, it really was. It was probably one of the best rooms in the hotel, for views. Unfortunately, for those of us who prefer a view of more than sea, sand and hundreds of bodies then it was less than interesting. Oh, and did I mention all the high rise buildings? They were everywhere, completely dominating the skyline, mostly ultra-modern, monochrome and at times a bit ugly. I was less than impressed.
We had a little recce that first night. It seemed to me that it was all fast-food outlets, pubs and shops. Not to worry, I thought, it will all look better after a good night's sleep. Sleep? I wish! OMG the noise! It went on all night, starting with the boy racers and motorcyclists who liked to drive noisily up and down the prom until the early hours of the morning. When they finally went to bed, the binmen started their rounds and, as a lot of drinking takes place in all the hotels and bars, this meant that skips containing thousands upon thousands of bottles were raised high up in the air by the bin lorries and the
bottles were dropped from a great height, creating a cacophony of breaking glass. Just when they'd moved on Lifeguard 35 turned up for his early morning shift. Lifeguard 35's lookout hut was directly in front of our hotel, on the beach. Lifeguard 35 took his job seriously and liked to let everyone know they were in safe hands because he was now on duty, watching over them. He told them this loudly. Several times. Through a Tannoy. At 6 am. At least I got to see some wonderful sunrises, though one would have been enough.
We spent our time in Surfers looking to see if we'd missed anything. There were no old historical buildings to be found; they seemed to have been razed to the ground to accommodate all the fun seekers. Indeed, it is successful as a tourist centre and attracts a huge amount of families for their summer holidays. The beach has won multiple awards for cleanliness and water quality and safety and that's a good thing. Apparently, the surf is really good - if you can get past Lifeguard 35 and his other colleagues who stake out the safe bits of water and get very cross
if you try to go beyond those boundaries (loudly, on their Tannoys!). The beach was well used, by surfers and families during the day and by couples and groups of youths at night. The prom is used for barbeques and keep fit groups in the nice weather. Away from the beach there is a lovely river, awash with fish and with many lovely riverside properties.
For me, Surfers Paradise didn't do it. I try not to build up expectations before visiting a place because experience tells me it's likely those expectations won't be met and I'll end up disappointed. I think I was expecting it to be a bit like Byron Bay, and it was probably the name that did that. If Byron was bliss then surely paradise must be better? For me it was a bit brash and tacky, a la Blackpool, and it managed to achieve that without any festive decorations, lights or trees, with less than a week to go to Christmas, though it did have a carol service on the beach, with fireworks. But, Steve quite liked it and he clearly wasn't alone in that. Ah well, you win some, you lose some. I couldn't get away fast enough!
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