Brisbane

 
Saturday November 24th

 
      Arrived at the Brisbane transit station at about 10am. Familiar from my previous trip to Australia in Easter 1999 when I flew out of Brisbane airport. Jules was working as a waitress at a posh hotel a few buildings away so I left my bags at the hotel and took my time, had the latest photographs developed and sat on the internet for a bit. An hour or so before she was due to finish in the afternoon I turned up to eat where she was working and then we took a cab back to Tas and her house a short distance away close to the big river. Cool house, wooden building on stilts like everywhere else, Australian buildings are like Thai ones for that. I never did find out the reason why, apparently the river used to flood hugely (30 metres), but that's supposed to have been fixed with flood protection and people are still raising their houses up now. Houses are on stilts even a long way up hills when they are far higher than the rooves of other houses on stilts. Maybe to give people a few extra hours if there's a flood, or maybe it's just for the wildlife.
      There's plenty of that for sure, loads of small lizards in the back garden and three huge black spiders with their webs between two trees. Huge barbecue on the veranda and plenty of room for a table tennis table, apparently a national sport like pool is in other places. I slept in the living room, Tas and Jules in one room and Nova (Jules' sister) and John the Scot with the car in the other. Almost as soon as I'd arrived I found out that John had decided to wait another week and earn some more money before setting off. This suited me as I needed to arrange some things as well, like trying for an overdue update to the web site and finding a ticket back to Thailand at an expensive and booked out time of year, around Christmas and New Year.

 

Saturday November 24th - Friday November 30th

 
      Being around so many people and having plenty of other things to look into I've not managed to keep the diary up to date for this week. But I stayed at Tas and Jules' house all the time, following them for various house parties at their house and houses of friends (occasionally stooges), for the birthday of another Andrew, who runs the film memorabilia shop in the centre of Brisbane. Met heaps of cool people, and a few again I already knew from London. At Tork's house I found out a little about Burma, a couple of people had spent a lot of time there, one studying at Chaing Mai university for a year, and another working there I think. So might have a little look when I renew my monthly Thai visas across the border there. The same evening I picked up the jobs newspaper to see how things compared, and the first two jobs were for computer games companies (Tork was thinking of applying). Looks like I'd be alright from what they were asking, the salary being talked about was A$50,000. A lot to earn here but in the UK you are looking at about 30,000, which is over A$80,000. This goes a long way to explain why I hear there's a big revival in Australian game companies, European companies are running out of money as Auatralian ones are saving it. But writing a game myself in Thailand seems like the way to go...
      Everyone seemed to own two dogs wherever we went. At the second party for Andrew's birthday he brought his projector TV and we watched some DVDs, the preview stuff for the next Star Wars film, and a fantastic Asian film with no subtitles (but not needing them) I'll stay quiet about for a little while until I or someome else writes the computer game for it (I know there are games industry people reading!), an absolute classic.
      We once went fishing on the big river with John's fishing gear. I'd never fished before, and prefer just swimming around with them on the reefs, but I was the one to catch something that night, a grey fish with a big yellow stripe, just as I was trying to photograph a load of bats flying overhead at the same time! The bats are fruit bats I think, and there are many of them in Brisbane. Just before nightfall they seem to decide to go somewhere else along the river in large numbers.

 

Caught a fish

 

Bats coming from over the houses

 

Bats overhead!

 

Thursday November 29th

 
      A had hired a car yesterday but not had time to use it properly. Today I went for a drive south of Brisbane to have a look at the mountains there, since we would be driving north in John's car later. So I went to Tamborine Mountain, 70 km away. Driving is easy in Australia, you just need to remember to give way to pedestrians, no problem because driving's a lot more relaxed than in England. At traffic lights a left turn is often green when the pedestrian crossing across there is also green. You have to be careful with the speed as well as the limits are lower than you usually get in the UK, and there is no tolerance from the police for going over the limit by any margin, and there are hidden speed cameras and unmarked police cars. Even cyclists can get on the spot $70 fines for things.
      The way to the mountain isn't signposted from the main highways south, so an idea of where to turn off and a lucky sense of direction is what it took. After the highway it's a single carriageway mostly 100km/hr main road, with occasional surprising bridges only a single lane wide. Not long ago a lot of the roads weren't tarmacced ('sealed') so that's the way it is. Cedar Creek Falls is almost at the top of the road up, next to the entrace to a camping site called Thunder Egg Park, named after the ancient volcanic 'eggs' you can mine there for $10 a day, and cut open to see the orange stuff inside or whatever it is. I parked the car and walked down the stages of the waterfall, going further than I think is intended, including having to walk berefoot through the falling water to get to the last bit.

 

Cedar Creek Falls
 

 

Looking down to the next stage
 

 

The next stage
 

 

The lowest part I reached
 

 
      I thought I had seen some old steps going up after the last section but when I got down there it didn't look like it. So I came back up a different way and very nearly put my hands on a snake as I climbed up. It was over a metre long, blue and green, quite slim, and a big insect in its mouth. I think that was lucky and maybe it preferred to keep the food than to bite me. It's probably a safe snake but I'm still glad we didn't touch each other. Before I could get the camera out it had just about slithered into a bush, and I wasn't about to do the snake man thing of putting my hand in there to bring it out!
      I drove the rest of the way to the small town at the top (600m) for lunch and a lot of phone calls. I took some pictures from various look out points, some very impressive views, and the most scenic location for public toilets I've ever seen, right on the edge. I'll spare you the picture, but they were built appropriately for the local hangliding club. I started driving back down as the other waterfalls didn't sound as good and were quite a walk away. On the way back I had a look at Thunder Egg Park, they had a little zoo there, but not quite the Jurassic Park the name of the place makes you think. It was nearly dark so I didn't bother with the mining.

 

At the end of Tamborine Mountain

 

From the side of the mountain

 

The other way

 

Bundaberg

 
Saturday December 1st

 
      The big day for the drive north. It was much bigger day for John as he had been waiting for five months to have the drive organised (it took me 6 months to get out of London, so I know all about how that happens). Big champagne breakfast before the eventual departure in the afternoon from Tas, Jules, Andy and wife (sorry about your name!).

 

John, John, and Nessie
 

 
      After visiting a friend from John's home town and taking pictures of us and the car John decided to drive as far as Bundaberg, his first destination for looking for work. We arrived late, around 10pm. We didn't fancy a hostel on the first night so we got beds in a motel room for $60, all the others were full.
      We had a look at just about the only bar and club in the area. The bar had a dodgy sounding band that after a couple of beers sounded rather good. Some of the Australian girls were friendly to talk to, but only it turned out because they were not single. John met his mate from Sydney again who had told him about the good fruit picking to be had at Bundeberg. Maybe it's just a matter of opinion what it's like. Later we foolishly walked to the club, there were no easy taxis but it is a long walk (over half an hour). A very basic club compared to London, in a converted theatre. Equally foolishly we walked past the queue for taxis and hoped to find one around the corner. Unfortunately for us they all keep to the queuing system, but after we had walked half way they allowed us a lift.

 

Rockhampton

 
Sunday December 2nd

 
      All the hostels there were geared up for people who needed to make some money from fruit picking (but usually a last resort as it's hot work in the sun). There was a scuba dive centre as well which we are both interested in. We paid the $20 each for the best hostel, but later on changed our minds, I because I didn't fancy the company in the dorm (dodgyest short of money people I'd met so far) and John didn't fancy the work camp environment and potential lack of fair reward, and all this after we had probably chosen the best of the hostels.
      Then there was a big drama about losing something, but the public nature of this site means you'll have to ask me about what that was all about!
      So we drove off again just before nightfall, with no idea of the destination. John didn't mind, and I chose to go north as going backwards wasn't what I was looking for, and it was far too early for John to give up already and return to Brisbane! John was tired so I did all the driving, 400km or whatever it is all the way to Rockhampton at night (and without insurance I think!). When we arrived I noticed a cheap campsite at the beginning of town. From my experience at Byron Bay last time in Australia these are good cheap places to stay.
      $39 got us a large and very smart cabin that could sleep up to 5 people (three bunk beds and a double bed the other end). John went fishing after nightfall, which is apparently one of the best times to do it (the fishing shop is open 24 hours). Outside the entrance to the shared shower room for the campsite was a bright green frog, exactly like Kermit himself. It was so bright green and smooth looking, and perfectly still waiting for flies it took me a while to check for sure it was alive not a toy!

 

Kermit the frog

 

Monday December 3rd

 
      No point in changing accommodation as we have the car to get into town and the cabin is so cheap. It's very quiet on the campsite, hardly anyone else around. While John was driving around looking for work or the next destination I had a look at the shops. Rockhampton is a smart colourful town with a large river with plenty of boats on it. And what I liked most was it's such a quiet place, but if you live there, like Bundeberg, everyone seems to know everyone. A hairdresser was surprised she didn't know me until she heard my accent. She refused to accept a tip saying that absolutely no one tips for anything in Queensland. After that I sat at the main river footpath for over an hour, during which time only one person walked past.

 

Tuesday December 4th

 
      Started meeting people at the campsite today, but we have decided to travel on again. John couldn't decide if he wanted to go inland to Emerald or just 'the bush' for a few days, and I was keen to go further north, so I booked a bus for Airlie Beach, a place recommended to all and bringing envy to all those you tell you are going.
      We decided to have a few drinks as it was our last evening of the shared journey. Finding almost nothing around we ended up at the 'Jungle Bar' on the main street. The worst karaoke singing by the locals I'd ever experienced so we drank up very quickly and left. We went to the bar and hostel combination run by a guy called Josh who lives there with his family I think. He mentioned about a $55 commission that the hostels take in Airlie Beach for booking $250-$350 trips, so since we weren't going to book one through him we should always call the travel people directly and insist on a $55 discount!
      After more drinks I got on the night bus for Airlie Beach.

 
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