Success is getting what you want; happiness is liking what you get

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Worrying Pays Off

It’s just as well that I’m a worrier, I have decided.  On our last night in Brisbane, we packed up our cases, and set the alarm clock on Robin’s magic (smart) phone to go off at 4.30am.  I was awake off and on during the night, checking on the clock on my beside cabinet to see how things were coming along.  By 4.00am I was fully awake, and lay there, keeping my beady eye on the numbers as they slowly counted down.  By 4.35am Robin’s smart phone had not rung so I had to switch on the beside light and tell him it was time to get up.  And – that he had me to thank that we hadn’t slept in and missed our flight.  This is the second time that it had failed us as an alarm clock – so much for high tech wizardry, I say.

We drove through the gloomy morning light to the drop off place for our hire car, jumped in the shuttle which deposited some passengers to the domestic terminal, and then took us to the overseas terminal.  My goodness, Brisbane airport is a big place, lots of passengers everywhere, going about their business.  And the school holidays add to the chaos, with family groups, toddlers, and babies everywhere.

P1020009
Checking in at Brisbane

Going through Security is always a bit stressful – especially as I had placed my passport the wrong way around on the scanner and had to be shown how to do it correctly.  Then we had to stand on top of the yellow pair of feet painted on the floor, and look at the camera as it took our photo.  No wonder people get nervous.  Once safely through we walked until we found gate 77, and sat and waited, and waited some more, till it was boarding time.  There’s our plane, waiting patiently, looking quite small compared to the extra large Emirates plane parked up close to ours.

P1020010
QF 123

Our flight over to Auckland took 2.45 hours and was fairly uneventful.  The same old story – squashed in to cattle class where it is so difficult to get comfy, or move around.  I did my usual job of watching my tiny little TV screen on the back of the seat in front, checking that the pilot was keeping the plane on track, and keeping an eye out the window to make sure that the wing didn’t fall off.  I take my navigational duties very seriously, I can tell you!

P1020011P1020013
Over sea and finally over land

P1020017
2330kms later, arriving in Auckland

Being honest Kiwis, we took particular care filling in the arrival cards.  After watching various episodes of Border Control on TV, we knew to declare all foodstuffs.  Such as the sealed packet of chocolate which I wouldn’t let Robin open, in case we never ate it all in time.  And the remaining tea bags, which we never managed to use up – that got two ticks, one for food, and one for plant matter, just to be sure.  Then we acknowledged that we had walked over the great outdoors where wild animals lived on our various trips, and got soil on our shoes.  All this was noted, and we were waved on.  I didn’t take it personally when my bag was swabbed (for drugs) and I had to hold my arms out for the wand to be waved over me, as I know they pick random people out of the queue to check.

P1020018
We never did find out why

Changing some of our Aussie dollars into NZ cash, we boarded a shuttle to take us to our motel in Parnell, where we are staying the next two nights.  We have another little train ride booked – more later…….

P1020019
Our room at Parnell Inn

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Last Day in Brisbane

It’s hot and sunny again in Brisbane, not that we are complaining, you understand.  With the school holidays in full swing, the CBD is chock full of family groups, and sultry looking teenage girls. 

We have been very interested in all the bike stands we have found around the city, such as this one, just outside our apartment building.  There are 150 CityCycle bike stations with up to 2000 bikes available across the inner city.  CityCycle, Brisbane's public bike share scheme, is an active and sustainable type of public transport that encourages more people to cycle around the inner city, a quick, affordable and easy alternative to short trips by car, public transport or walking.

P1020006
Row of CityCycle bikes outside our apartment building

P1020008
Front door to our apartment building

We had a little shopping spree today – never a good thing to do when the weather is hot and sticky.  Found some new shorts for Robin, and a couple of items for me.  We had never been in a Myer’s store before, not too sure if this company has shops in New Zealand. 

P1020002
Been shopping

We lunched at one of the many Food Halls dotted around close by.  Robin went for an old favourite, burger and chips, while I decided to try something different, and ordered ginger pork and rice from the hard working Japanese cooks.

P1020003
Cooking up my lunch

Our Aussie adventure is almost over.  Tomorrow will be an early morning as we have to return the hire car and get to the airport by 5.30am.  There could well be a go slow with staff taking industrial action, we will have to wait and see how it all works out.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Redcliffe – home to Big Brother and the Bee Gees

My big brother lives in Redcliffe, Brisbane, and it had been quite some years since we had met up.  So we made contact on our arrival, and arranged to meet up today, Tuesday.  The trusty Garmin was programmed, and took us out of the city and on our way, through one suburb after another, along a motorway or two,  until we reached Redcliffe Peninsular, a trip of about 30km.  Brian and Noeleen welcomed us into their home, put the coffee pot on, and we caught up with all the family news.

We lunched at the rather swish Mon Komo restaurant opposite the beach,  and then it was the usual story, what to choose from the menu.  The meals were delicious, lamb for the blokes, fish and prawns for the girls.

P1010985
Lunch at Mon Komo – Robin, Brian, Noeleen, Jenny

The view from the beach front looked out over Moreton Island, 25kms off shore, and is the third largest sand island in the world.  The island covers an area of about 17700ha, and extends for 38 km from north to south, and at its widest it is 8 km across.  Known as an unspoilt paradise, it would be a lovely place to visit.  But not this trip, sadly.

P1010989
Looking over to Moreton Island

The Redcliffe Jetty has been considered the heart of the Peninsula ever since ships carrying holiday makers started arriving in the late 1800s.  This is the third jetty, and features heritage lights, seats and drinking fountains in recognition of the two previous structures.

P1010990
Redcliffe Jetty

What we didn’t know was that the brothers Gibb, the Bee Gees, were brought up in Redcliffe, and their lives are celebrated in the Bee Gees Way.

P1020001

The Bee Gees Way was full of photos, statues, films, and their music was playing continuously.  My son Michael was a real fan of the Bee Gees as a teenager, and played their records over and over, so I was exposed to their music too, and really enjoyed it.

P1010994
Bee Gees as young boys

P1010998P1010999

Sadly, only one of the brothers is still alive, the eldest, Barry.  With his long flowing locks, Barry was always my favourite.  There was a plaque written by Barry Gibb,  telling of the boys early times in Redcliffe.

“Swimming with tigers and breaking the rules, living on friendship and acting like fools
But the dream was always there within us, around us, whispering in our ears
Pushing us forward, to places unknown, always together and always alone
The dream was relentless and fame was the spur, asleep here in Redcliffe and waiting to stir
Unforgettable Redcliffe, you stand where we were
Barry”

Many thanks to Brian and Noeleen for taking us to this special place – it certainly brought back memories of all those fabulous Bee Gees songs.

P1010996

Monday, September 26, 2016

From the Mountain to the Coast

Robin set up his Garmin GPS system and it took us (and our rental car) to the Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk.  Tamborine Mountain is the northern slope of the great Tweed Volcano.  The car park was full, no doubt because it just happens to be the school holidays.  The 1.5km walk is a combination of forest floor trails, 300m of high tech steel bridges taking visitors through the highest points of the upper canopy, and a 40m cantilevered bridge above the rocky creek.

P1010952P1010956

Platypus can be found in the streams of of these 30 pristine acres, and koalas live in the eucalypt trees surrounding the rainforest.  Of course, we saw neither of these species during our visit. We saw all sorts of interesting trees and shrubs, such as Strangler Figs climbing up a tree.

P1010963
Strangler Fig

P1010970
On the cantilevered bridge

We found a memorial plaque on the walkway, dedicated to the memory of Sir Jack Brabham, who was a great friend and frequent visitor to the Skywalk.  At his request, his wife scattered his ashes at this special place in his life on September 2014.

P9269542P9269547
Memorial plaque, and the creek on the forest floor

After enjoying lunch in the cafĂ©, Robin set the Garmin to take us for a trip  to the Gold Coast – just because we had never been there.  We stopped at a lookout on Tamborine Mountain to take a few snaps, passing by all sorts of trendy arty places, cafes, and wineries.

P1010973
View from Tamborine Mountain

Soon we arrived at Nobby Beach, to see bikini clad sun worshippers watched over by a couple of life savers - the sandy beach looked lovely and inviting.

P1010978P9269565
Nobby Beach

High rise buildings could be seen away in the distance at both ends of the beach.  Hotels and apartments buildings, we presumed.

P9269563P9269564
High rise buildings in the distance

The GPS took us back to Brisbane, and right through the middle of the Gold Coast (town or city, we are not sure).  But at least we can now say we have been to the Gold Coast at long last!

P1010980

Unfortunately, we almost had an accident going around a round-about on the trip home, but Robin swerved away in the nick of time.  That really shook us up, but luckily the rest of the trip went perfectly, and we made our way into the CBD, found our car parking building, and breathed a sigh of relief.  It had been a great day, and we made a round trip of 200km along busy motorways, all new to us. 

P1010972
Our rental car

Sunday, September 25, 2016

River Fire – and On the Buses

No, let us assure you that Brisbane has not burnt to the ground.  River Fire was the name of the fireworks spectacular, set up on pontoons on the Brisbane River, which we watched from our 22nd floor dining room last night.  Thousands of people had staked their claims to a good spot on the river bank during the day, taking the families, supplies, seats and blankets along to watch this annual event.  It started off with four rather noisy Army helicopters,  making their distinctive sound as they flew along the river and over the heads of the crowds.  Not to be outdone, two jets then streaked up and down the river, putting on a great show.  Much too fast to get caught on our cameras, of course.  Then the sun started to sink in the west, and the countdown to 7.00pm began.  Then over the course of 30 minutes, 11,000kgs of fireworks went up in smoke.

P1010904
View from our window, with a glimpse of the Wheel of Brisbane

P9249517P9249511
It went off with a bang

The next morning we purchased tickets for the Brisbane Explorer bus.  And yes, they had concession prices for a couple of oldies like us – at a saving of $10 each it was well worth asking the question.  To make things even better, our tickets took us on two different  tours around the city.  We love this sort of tour, the commentary points out all sorts of interesting sights and buildings, and gives us a good overview of the city.

P1010931 
The Brisbane Explorer

We did the Brisbane City Tour first, and drove past little old buildings, churches and government buildings from the early days, side by side with big brassy sky-scrapers – with plenty more under construction, we noticed.  We drove down a narrow street covered over in canopies.  Not as sun protection, we were informed, but because the glass windows keep falling out from the tall building at an alarming rate.  Talk about putting an ambulance at the bottom of a cliff – why don’t the powers-that-be do something about the defective building?  And do those people sitting below sipping their coffees know of the danger ready to rain down on them?

P1010914
Canopies to protect the public from falling windows

P1010915
Giant Morton Bay Fig Trees in the city centre

The Windmill Tower was built of sandstone by convicts in 1828, and was the first industrial building in Brisbane.  The windmill blades have long gone, but in their day they were not moved by wind, but by the hard labour of the convicts.

P1010916
The Windmill Tower

We just loved the elegant Regatta Hotel with it’s beautiful iron lace verandas.  This heritage listed building now houses cafes, restaurants and bars, and gives rest to back packers.  And Koala House is one of the few two story buildings left in the city.

P9259528P9259530
Regatta Hotel and Koala House

We stopped at the lookout stop above the Kangaroo Point cliffs which had amazing views over the river and city buildings.

P1010924
View from Kangaroo Point cliffs

Our first tour finished and we had a quick lunch at one of the many Food Halls scattered around the CBD.  Robin chose Kentucky Fried and a Coke, and I very bravely tried something different, Saigon Lemongrass Chicken and Noodles, washed down with a glass of Lychee juice.  Very tasty, and we finished in time to board the next bus tour, this one took us up the 800ft Mount Coot-tha.  It used to be known as One Tree Hill, but reverted to the original name of Coot-tha, which means “place of the honey bees”.

P1010936

There was a stop of 10 minutes here, which gave us just enough time to scurry up to the lookout which was packed with visitors, take a few photos, and get back to the bus before it departed.  A helpful young tourist took our photo for us.

P9259539
View from Mount Coot-tha lookout

P1010941
On Mount Coot-tha, with Brisbane in the background.

It was another lovely day out sight seeing – wonder what we will get up to tomorrow?

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Bustling Brisbane

Brisbane – what a busy, bustling city it certainly is.  We arrived last night, after a 3 1/2 hour flight from Darwin. The plane was full – those in the first class seats had room to spread out, while the rest of us in cattle class were packed in tight. 

P1010873
Our plane to Brisbane

On disembarking, we collected our cases and went to get our hire car.  What a comedy of errors that turned our to be.  According to our information we had been booked through Hertz.  Not so – they didn’t have our booking.  Perhaps we were mistaken, and it should have been Avis?  No again.  So the staff on the downstairs desks sent us upstairs to the main offices, so up we went on the escalators, tiredly towing our cases behind up.

The young woman on the upstairs counter at Hertz was very helpful, and when we carefully inspected the voucher in our little hot hands it had the name 'Sixt', who we had never heard of.  She kindly contacted them for us and showed us where to wait for a minibus to take us out to their office which was some distance from the airport.  'Sixt' had a record of our booking but insisted that we had not paid in advance so we had to pay another AUD$380.62 before we could get the car. And we had to renegotiate our drop off time, pay extra to drop the car off at an adjacent business, and then for a shuttle to take us to our early morning flight.   Needless to say, Robin has sent a rather strongly worded email to our travel consultant, and we will be looking for a reimbursment of these extra costs on our return home.  And you really don’t want to know the trouble we had trying to find our way into a strange city in the dark, even with the help of a GPS.  We were definitely not Happy Campers at all.
 
But today’s another day, and after a good night’s sleep, things are better.  Our apartment in the central city is rather swish, and we have a rather nice dining area surrounded by glass on three sides.  It’s a bit like dining up in the clouds.

P1010876P1010877
We are on the 22nd floor

Our adventure today started with a walk down through the busy Queen Street Mall.  It was full of music and buskers, and crowded with people walking by, or just sitting and enjoying the music.  We continued on our way and walked over the Victoria Bridge across the Brisbane River to Southbank.

P1010884
On the way to Victoria Bridge

A large fireworks display was planned for the evening, and many people had already secured their places on the riverbank, setting out their blankets, camping chairs, and chilly bins full of food.  Our goal was to go for a ride on the City Hopper, the free inner city ferry.  And there it was, coming towards us.

P1010888
The City Hopper Red Ferry

The free red ferry criss-crosses the river from Victoria Bridge, around Kangaroo Point and all the way up-river to Sydney Street.  Crowds of people got on and off at each stop, and we sat in the back and enjoyed the journey.   The journey took us past some very expensive real estate, lots of rather posh waterside restaurants, a museum, and a hospital, and under several bridges.

P1010892P1010893
On the Brisbane River

Oh yes, we remember that bridge we just passed under.  It’s the one we drove over by mistake when we took the wrong lane in the dark while trying to find our apartment block.  “Do a U turn”, the GPS repeated, time and again, hardly an option while driving on a busy bridge, is it? 

P1010901

The little red ferry took us back to where we wanted to go, and instead of climbing up a whole lot of steep steps, we boarded the glass fronted lift which whisked us up to the street in no time at all.

P1010902
A trip in the lift saves our tired legs

That was certainly a fun day, chugging about on the river.  We are not returning in the evening to join the crowds and see the fireworks, and hopefully will be able to catch a glimpse of all the excitement from our 22nd story window which looks down onto the river.