A Travellerspoint blog

Sydney and the Blue Mountains

Opera houses, drama and nature in 4 days!

The Greyhound journey to Sydney turned out to be considerably longer than published. In addition to the tardy start to our ride from Coffs I suspect that the driver got more than a little lost at one stage (judging by his many and frequent mobile phone calls to base) before the coach warning systems started making a constant and really, really annoying shrill noise culminating in our pulling over on to the hard shoulder. We were some 150km north of Newcastle from where a greyhound mechanic was sourced and despatched to fix the problem. Given that it took about 90 minutes for him to arrive at our stricken vehicle and then another hour or so to fix us up, our revised ETA in Sydney was moved to 4.15 AM!!!

Arriving in the dark with no idea of where the Base hostel was located was no problem for the Fool - he simply accompanied a couple of fellow bus-using backpackers to their hostel, secured a map of the city et voila, Base was identified. Given the early hour there was no chance of being processed and offered a bed so I dumped the bags and headed on foot towards the Circular Quay in search of the iconic Opera House and Harbour Bridge. After an extensive wander around the whole area, snapping so many pictures willy-nilly on the trusty compact digital that I got the red "low-battery" warning signal, which happened to coincide with how I felt, it was back to Base, still well before 8.00am, to await the check in staff.
Pre-dawn sighting of the iconic Opera House

Pre-dawn sighting of the iconic Opera House

Peace in the harbour

Peace in the harbour

The Bridge

The Bridge

After a shower and facial trim it was off to the New York Metro for thier American Big Breakfast to replenish the fuel tank then more "short term visitor, cram it all in" sightseeing, this time around the very commercial Darling Harbour area. My shopping for a travellers chilli was followed by eating the evening repast and then retiring to the dorm where the usual mix of Base's long and short term backpacker residents in city hostels was evident - those who are working in the city had their territory clearly marked out, with their detritus spread around "their" section of the floor, their bunk beds shielded from the room with hanging sheets (giving the room a bedouin tent look and feel - and also a not so faint camel dung smell) and all available plug sockets fully utilised.

Despite my now crushing need for some sleep I was "entertained" by various other locals dropping into our dorm, drinking their take-out goon and ciders and generally talking crap in overloud voices, completely unaware of anyone but themselves. When peace and sleep were finally delivered I was rudely awakened in the early hours by John (one of said long termers) and his newly acquired drunken fumble, who promptly fell off of his bed, laughed uncontrollably in that way that drunk people do when they do something stupid but think that they have got away with it and then they  proceeded to talk in unhushed terms about "rim jobs" whilst she slobbered on his member. Fortunately we were spared the full 3rd party sex thing as the tramp suddenly decided she needed to find out where her friend was and left the dorm, after which she and John were thankfully absent for the remainder of the night. Other comings and goings followed until breakfast beckoned and I gratefully left the tarts boudoir that is dorm 205!!!

Given that I only had 4 days available to "do Sydney" it was off down to the the quay to board the ferry to Manly. These ferries are built for the extremely large commuter crowd and so are huge, with several decks and a capacity of over 700 passengers. The journey across the water was hassle free and when we disembarked I wandered round somewhat aimlessly trying to get some bearings. I know that Australia's (caucasian) roots stem from good old Blighty but imagine my surprise when I rounded a corner to come across a full bagpipe band complete with kilts, sporrans, long socks et al. Well I took a few snaps and hung around long enough for them to set up and play a couple of stirring scottish windbag tunes then headed to the fabled beach. Although busy and commercial, Manley beach is a pretty setting with a very relaxed vibe with the whole cross section of society represented in their brightly coloured beachwear. I followed the signs and soon found myself at the start of the coastal walk. The route is quite gentle in parts and it offers up some great views of Manley itself and the estuary. It was also blessed with a reasonable quantity and variety of wildlife (well lizards mainly) but they are pretty relaxed around people so some good close ups can be had! Later on the route you climb over the headland and the directions become a bit vague but you are never too far from civilisation. I returned to the ferry terminal by an up and down circuitous route and felt that the old legs had had a good test. Back at Base things had calmed down a little and John sheepishly offered his apologies for the previous nights performance.
The Manly bagpipers

The Manly bagpipers

The Cops parked across the street from a coffee/doughnut shop!!

The Cops parked across the street from a coffee/doughnut shop!!

View from the Manly coastal walk

View from the Manly coastal walk

Sunbathing!

Sunbathing!

Day 3 was a strange and yet strangely pleasant day. I struck out for the day to Palm Beach (supposedly a quiet and beautiful place and just around the corner from where they film the Aussie soap Home And Away). Well, the place fit the description a little too perfectly, it was lovely but very very quiet - I had trouble finding a beachfront cafe to muster up a cup of coffee! On my way towards the filmset beach (although I did not know it was there) a guy in a classic old sports car pulled up and offered me a ride. He knew the area and was pretty insistent about giving me a lift somewhere - anywhere really, as he was at a loose end for the day and wanted some company. Well I hopped in and we set off for a tour of some of the more "off the bus route" roads - it turns out he is an ex-pat Brit, a self declared computer operations "guru" and a frustrated novellist whose literary work continues to expand exponentially, thus making its chances of completion and future publication remote to say the least. As it turned out the day was a great mixture of eclectic conversation, motoring around the coastline and seeing some amazing views with no other tourists in sight. Despite a spectacularly unsuccessful quest to find an open tea or coffee shop, apparently few and far between when off the beaten tourist routes, it was an all round good afternoon, culminating in being dropped off at the ferry stop across Sydney harbour to paddle homewards.
This big fella surprised us by hiding in plain sight

This big fella surprised us by hiding in plain sight

A view from the backroads

A view from the backroads

Its peaceful here!

Its peaceful here!


My final full day kicked off with the bus ride out to the Blue Mountains. Only a relatively short drive from central Sydney this place is a must see venue. Even though it was a single day trip the tour managed to pack in a full day for sights and "activities" with an amusing and informative guide. After stopping at a random coach park by a river to pay for/collect our park/cablecar tickets we continued on to the mountains. My seating companion for the day was the wonderfully quirky PJ, also a Brit, who along with looking strangely like Aunt Sally from Wurzle Gummidge, had a mad sense of humour and a very loud, wierd and infectious laugh.
The tour comprised visiting scary clifftops for crazy "dangling your feet over the abyss" photos, waterfalls including the Wentworth Falls from the cable car (not the Fools favourite experience given the depth of the valley and the see through floor) and the worlds steepest railway where PJ's maniacal laugh reached even higher levels in pitch and volume. In addition to the above the days tour included a stroll around the interesting Katoomba national park (complete with discarded mining paraphernalia, massive fallen trees,termite mounds etc), aboriginal rock carvings, a trip to the Olympic Park and ended with the Captain Cook sunset cruise, returning to the harbour on a large boat.
On the edge!

On the edge!

The view underfoot!

The view underfoot!

PJ and the Fool enjoy the ride

PJ and the Fool enjoy the ride

Posing with a mini-miner.

Posing with a mini-miner.

The Waterfall (dry season)

The Waterfall (dry season)

Where the 'roo bought it!

Where the 'roo bought it!


The last few kms on the water seemed to take forever and when we finally docked I had to hot-foot it back to the Base hostel bar for a reunion with Mark, one of the three Essex lads I met in Peru in 2011 and who has emigrated very successfully to Manley. Catching up (and sharing beers) with him was a great end to a really enjoyable day and an all too brief spell in Sydney. Soon afterwards it was into the shuttle and off to the airport for my flight to the northern territories outpost that is Darwin. The 4 hour flight was improved by getting an emergency exit seat with the additional legroom the Fool so seldom enjoys later in his travels.

Final view of the Bridge....

Final view of the Bridge....

.... and the Opera House!

.... and the Opera House!

One bizarre postscript is that whilst the flight time to Darwin is a mere 4 hours it crosses two internal time zones totalling 1.5 hours which does play with the old noggin! Come on Australia - either sh!t or get off of the pot - have "full hour" timezone changes or none at all please.

Posted by RoystonBoyston 23:52 Archived in Australia Tagged mark aunt sally Comments (0)

Coffs Harbour

Run for your lives - the sky is on fire!!

rain

Coffee followed by the almost midday Greyhound saw us in Coffs in time for afternoon tea (or fish & chips in this case). We were met by the hostel shuttle bus and on the way to the hostel Jim (late of Croydon, Surrey) took us to the lookout over the town and beachfront area for a really stunning view of the beautiful Coff's Harbour. The Aussitel hostel is a cool place with friendly helpful staff, a good mix of patrons (natonalities, workers and travellers), plenty of relaxation area and free activities such as kayaking and fishing.
First sighting of Coffs Harbour

First sighting of Coffs Harbour


Having signed up for the weekly veggie tuesday $3 evening meal (comprising pasta, vegetables and parmesan) I joined a strong german contingent on the banks of the creek across the road for some fishing. Early success was in the form of a very small stripey fish followed by a real fighter called a brim which kindly voided its bowels when being unhooked, played possum on the decking and subsequently tried to jump out of the bucket when recovered! The Fool then weighed in with a further 2 small butterfly fish types before landing the days best specimen - all this despite being devoured by microscopic flies whose bites were both numerous and irritating. After the fishing I returned to the hostel and tucked into a very decent portion of the healthy veggie dinner, worth every cent of those three bucks.
Another monster landed by the Fool

Another monster landed by the Fool


Day 2 saw me travelling all the way across the road for an excellent coffee (served by a brit exile of 22 years) followed by a trek into town for food supplies and some fortuitous free wifi! Following the local knowledge fishing tips from my breakfast time barista the Fool spent most of the rest of the day standing by the creek feeding the fish using the rod and tackle - not one damn fish bit despite giving them the equivalent of a 4 course banquet!!! After such a demoralising session on the riverbank I not looking forward to that nights karaoke!! As it turned out the singing was generally ok and the volume bearable when I retreated to the dorm.

Having opted to stay another day in this peaceful spot sadly my extension day turned out to be a bad move, the weather turned and overnight high winds and rain bled into a cold, wet and miserable day. In pursuit of free wifi after lunch I undertook a trek into town in the light but irritatingly persistant rain, breaking out my expensive North Face waterproof jacket for the first time in a very long while. The town square was bustling with a craft style market, stalls selling home made jars of preserves, breads, cakes and other tasty morsels and, right behind where I sat, a chap playing both the didgerydoo and some strange metallic clarinet like instrument. Whilst he was evidently a very gifted musician the amp and speakers he was using were a little on the powerful side and every time he started on a new piece the sound seemed to resonate (or reverberate) physically through my body! At mid-afternoon, with the rain persisting down they all packed up their wares and foxtrot-oscared home in double quick time.
A couple of well dressed birds rehearse their formation dancing

A couple of well dressed birds rehearse their formation dancing


I decided to extend my walk and ended up being rewarded by meeting an interesting Aussie guy of 56 who was fishing near the mouth of the Creek. Following the untimely pegging out ("death" for the non-Brits) of a number of his friends, he and his wife had spent the last 17 months travelling around Oz in a good sized winnebago type van looking for a possible place to relocate to from their Tasmanian home. Shortly afterwards I happened upon the most unexpected (given the day's poor weather) yet stunning sunset, the sky seemingly set on fire by the sinking orb.
The sun finally breaks through - offshore!

The sun finally breaks through - offshore!

Pelican lake

Pelican lake

Now THAT is a sunset !!!!

Now THAT is a sunset !!!!

Fire in the Sky

Fire in the Sky


Moving day saw me up and out of the blocks early to try a bit of fishing from the pier - despite the strong wind and a couple of bracing showers I managed to hook 5 of the blighters (3 whiting and a couple of bream, none of which were really big enough to warrant keeping for the pot) before returning to the hostel to pack and check out by the 10am deadline.

After packing I took off on foot for the bracing walk out to Muttonbird Island to admire the views, both back inland and out to sea, spotting a number of humpback whales spouting and surfacing in the distance - still no turtles though.

A swift bite to eat and it was into the hostel van to be dropped off for the Greyhound which finally arrived some 45 minutes behind schedule, not boding at all well for the arrival in Sydney which now looks like it will be after 1 am on Saturday morning.

Coffs Harbour is an extremely scenic place with a casual feel about it. Whilst there are a number of hostel options in the town I would heartily recommend the Aussitel for its all round welcome feel, great location, free activities, diverse customer mix and the current staff, manager Jim and his partner Vicky.

Posted by RoystonBoyston 06:43 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Byron Bay - The Art Factory, gratis yoga and "lost and found

When Neat deposited me at the approach to the Art Factory hostel in Byron in the late evening I honestly didnt know what to expect given that it had previously been some sort of hippie commune. Actually I was pleasantly surprised as the core buildings were "normal", the dorms being a very standard two storey affair, built around a swimming pool!! Next morning I reconnoitred the grounds to see the place in daylight and that is when I came across the alternative accomodations - huts, tents and teepees, with a wide variety of clientele to match. The hostel is situated a few minutes walk "the other side of the tracks" from the main town which is small, bustling and very, very commercial. The beachfront is close by and stretches some distance each way so, despite being heavily populated, there was room to sit and observe or stroll along the front.
The Art Factory welcoming committee

The Art Factory welcoming committee

The old Art Factory bus remains

The old Art Factory bus remains


One of the benefits of the hostel is that their eclectic customer profile throws up some useful associations, the principal one for me being a german/polish couple who had met while travelling in India and who now held free yoga classes thrice a week. I joined the first available session and, despite taking things very gently, proved that these old bones are very much in need of some maintenance - whilst my torso and upper body seem able to stretch, bend and extend to order, from the hips downwards there was an acute lack of flexibility in most joints - a large scale lubrication of the hinges was definitely required.

Panic attack - losing my identity and my mind!
Anyhow, having ploughed through the first session I returned to the dorm to prepare for a foray into town and it was at this point that I experienced every travellers worst nightmare. Whilst we can overcome the loss of clothes, toiletries and other such items, losing ones wallet, passport, driving licence, phone, cash, cards and camera is a huge blow. Being late to get to the yoga class (the last minute Fool as ever), I stowed all of the important items mentioned above in the dorm and rushed out to the class which was being held literally underneath the dorm area. On my return I checked where I thought I had hidden them and couldn't find any of them. A very quick and panicky rummage through my bags then followed before I concluded that they had all been "half-inched" (= pinched, as in stolen) and hot-footed it to reception to seek assistance. What followed was an horrendous half hour of fear, raw nerves, stupid assumptions and inappropriate comments and accusations (all by yours truly) about the hostels lack of control of dorm keys, lax approach to security etc, etc.
Well, having established that none of the cleaning staff had seen my belongings I returned to the room to have one last look before gathering the details required to contact police, my bank, the british consul, the FBI/CIA, NATO and International Rescue ("Thunderbirds are go") in the hope that their combined efforts could recover and return my identity.
Delving deep down the side my backpack my fingertips encountered what felt like my camera case - could it possibly be so?
Surely not, I didnt put it in that bag - or did I??
Further probing saw the camera case, complete with camera, extracted from the depths of my top-loader pack. Swiftly returning to the darkened recesses of the bag I successively located and extracted the "lost" wallet, passport and phone. As quickly as pure, unadulterated relief washed over me, so built the embarrassment I felt at being such a complete pratt!! Now completely redfaced and humbled I headed straight back to reception to sheepishly inform them that there had not been a robbery after all, all of my items were accounted for, there was no need to raise the various enforcement agencies and that I was extremely sorry for my earlier reactions and behaviours. They took it all in good grace but underneath I could see that they thought the same of me as I did of myself - What a moron!!

This was the first and only time I thought I had lost my most valuable items (passport and cards to access my cash) and it was a timely reminder. Throughout all of my previous travels nothing remotely like this had happened, indeed I had apparently adopted the attitude that it would never happen to me, only to others. Well, let me tell you, being in a foreign country (albeit somewhere similar to home like Oz) without any ID, money, communications or credit cards makes one realise just how much we take what we have for granted. For 30 minutes or so I felt completely alone, vulnerable and, being totally honest, lost. Needless to say, from that moment onwards I have kept my crucial items either on me or securely locked away - I dont want a repeat of those emotions any time soon.

Back to Byron itself then.
Down at the beach, if you stand facing the ocean, to your left the bay stretches into the distance whilst to the right it leads to a headland which marks the start of a quite lovely coastal path walk.
In the early Monday morning sunshine I meandered along the shoreline until I came to the quaint lookout point built on a lone rocky outcrop before joining the coastal pathway.
Byron just after dawn - glorious!

Byron just after dawn - glorious!

The lookout at low tide

The lookout at low tide


The walk is quite bracing as it follows the rocky headland and involves climbing from sea level to the top of the rocks, past Australua's most easterly point and on up to the lighthouse, affording great views of the ocean and the tree covered hills (the tree canopy mirrors exactly the contours of the hills as it braves the constant offshore winds, looking more like a dark green buzz-cut than a common wood).
My coastal walk buddy

My coastal walk buddy

Australias most easterly point is reached!

Australias most easterly point is reached!

The cool lighthouse, also reached!

The cool lighthouse, also reached!

The wierd, terrain hugging trees

The wierd, terrain hugging trees


After the walk I found my way to the Top Shop cafe for the most glorious and well earned breakfast burger (lettuce, toms, bacon, hash brown, egg, cheese, avocado and tom relish - nice!) and a steaming hot coffee.
The most awesome breakfast burger!

The most awesome breakfast burger!


Following another yoga session it was time to pack once again and to head ever further south towards my date with Sydney.
I can heartily recommend Byron with its small town hustle and bustle neatly counterpointed by the solitude of the coastal walk and the chilled vibe at the Art Factory Hostel (and its laid back Buddha Bar). A fun and friendly place where the emphasis is on having seaside fun for all the family. With Nimbim relatively close by it is obviously a bit of a draw for the Pot Brigade but that just seems to add to the generally relaxed feel of the place.

Posted by RoystonBoyston 04:23 Comments (0)

Travels with Neat - to Byron and Nimbim

sunny

Neat's friday was effectively a day off and, since she was going on a pampered ladies weekend retreat with her co-conspirators Lynley, Liz and Marie, she invited me on a road trip which would culminate in dropping me off at the Arts Factory Hostel in Byron Bay at some point.

An early start (having included packing my gear, her weekend bag, one surfboard and a couple of bales of top quality grass for her cattle into the Ute) saw us on the road south for a beach walk with a long term friend of hers in a lovely place called Burleigh Heads, a little way past Surfers Paradise. This was followed by a quick tour in Neat's yute of the aforementioned iconic travel spot which resembles Miami or Torremelinos with its multi-storey hotel skyline and wall to wall concrete look and feel just yards away from the actual beaches. I was glad that I had decided to swerve staying here as it looked far too commercial for my tastes.
After calling in at her Eyes On Business offices (where we collected another of her surfboards) it was off to Ferry Markets for some great fish and chips for lunch ahead of some downtime for me whilst Neat and her cronies had an important business meeting which kind of overran!
After picking me up again Neat, Lynley, Marie and I headed south towards Neat's country bolthole, The Block in Cabarita. The plan was to drop off the grass for her two remaining head of cattle then head up to the deck at the top of her country spread for an early evening Corona or two whilst taking in the great views. Sadly her two large, spoilt and overexcited livestock decided to follow/chase the ute all the way up to the top of the field and then run around in a crazy manner, bucking and kicking as if trying to throw off imaginary bullriders. With her ute in danger of a good kicking and us, her guests, being ever so slightly nervous of these enthusiastic beasts charging at and around us, it was back in the truck in double quick time and down the hill to the exit before any damage was done. Despite being in the safety of the wagon it felt like we were running the gauntlet of Pamplona rather than visiting docile steaks-to-be on the hoof.
Neat and her livestock

Neat and her livestock


Next stop was in Brunswick Heads where we stopped at another of Neat's favourite country pubs, the Brunswick Hotel, to wait for Liz to join us and to enjoy some fine food, beer and the early evening entertainment of a guitar/vocalist who was pretty damn good - indeed he had many punters up and dancing and we had to drag Neat away from the dancefloor to continue the journey to Byron in the dark. We found the hostel easily enough and then it was farewell until Sunday when, on their way back to the city, they would pick me up for a trip to the legendary town of hemp - Nimbim.
Ladies what lunch also do dinner

Ladies what lunch also do dinner


Sunday's rendezvous worked out well and soon Neat, Lynley and I were winding our way through the country roads towards "pot heaven". Not for the first time in Oz was I surprised how far the journey was, I thought it would only take about an hour but I was way out! The route itself was great in that we were travelling inland so the roads twisted and turned and rose and fell through the coastal hills. Some of the views afforded between and over the trees when cresting rises were stunning, a welcome change to the scenery throughout my east coast journey to date.

Being a country girl at heart Neats attention was equally divided between keeping the vehicle on the tarmac and eyeing up potential farm machinery advertised for sale outside various roadside properties - apparently a sit down mower, complete with trailer, is high on her "must have" list.
Arrival in Nimbim revealed it to be an eclectic collection of individually styled houses leading into the main street which comprised a variety of shops and businesses that all acknowledged the towns continued association with all things hemp. Having parked up we wandered up the main street, me drinking in the unique shopfronts and locals and Neat looking to score some recreational relaxant. Having witnessed my first backstreet purchase (as weed is still illegal in Oz officially the police are still trying to catch the suppliers, albeit very casually) we witnessed a couple of rival female "special cookie" street traders have a particularly loud and profane slanging match across the street. Having been warned to "only eat half a cookie and any one time" both Neat and Lynley slipped their cookie purchases into their handbags!! Well, never judge by appearances - my two very professional and high powered business ladies both pocketing herbal relaxants - I really am still quite naive!! Having enjoyed coffee and some straight cake and interfaced with some of the more individual looking locals it was back into the ute to return me to Byron before the girls headed back to Brissie.
Coffee, Nimbim style

Coffee, Nimbim style

Neat and the Fool as others see us?

Neat and the Fool as others see us?

Hmm Does HRH even smoke?

Hmm Does HRH even smoke?

The Fool blending in with Nimbim locals.

The Fool blending in with Nimbim locals.

The very scarey cookie dealer!

The very scarey cookie dealer!


The return journey was punctuated by Neat stopping to look over some of the machinery we saw on the way out and when we got back to Byron she drove us to The Top Shop, a fantastic little cafe/eaterie hidden off the main track, where we enjoyed superbly fresh and tangy fish tacos and coffee.
Dropping me at the roadside as they exited Byron it was a fast farewell as the girls had a long trek ahead of them to get back to Brissie.

Once again Neat was a generous and fun host and it was fab to spend some time with some of her friends. I cant thank her enough for making Brissie and its surrounds such fun. Cheers Neat, you are a diamond!!

Posted by RoystonBoyston 08:28 Archived in Australia Tagged anita_jakins Comments (0)

Brissie - city of reunions

Anita, Cheeky, Fiona and Elisabeth put Brisbane right up there amongst the best places visited to date!!

My time in Brisbane was to be spent being hosted by the amazing Anita Jakins (hereafter referred to as Neat) who I met when she was traveling with her mate Belinda (Bim) in Chile back in 2011. These were the two wags who I accompanied on a zipline trip and who saw me through what was a testing experience for your height-hating scribe.

Arrival day was sweltering and, after a fully laden 50 minute trek to Neat's place in New Farm, I was slightly less than fresh and fragrant. As I sat on the bank outside number 4 munching on a very squashed egg sarnie and drinking luke warm water from my thirst extinguisher Neat turned up in her huge ute*, all beaming smiles and energy in her flaming red top and high heels - I had forgotten that this woman is more of a force of nature than a mere human being. After settling me in a luxurious double bedded room in her fantastic house (it is a fabulous old colonial style place with two balconies, a great view, an outside pool and heaps of room and character), Neat served me an ice cold beer over which we had a quick catch up, then she was gone for another business meeting - a trend she kept up throughout my time at hers.

  • * for all non-aussies or those who have never watched Home and Away or Neighbours a Ute is the slang or shortened name for a Utility Vehicle - usually a pickup truck equipped with bull bars and aerials!!

Neat's pad in Brissie

Neat's pad in Brissie

Cheeky does his best to look hard done by!

Cheeky does his best to look hard done by!

Neat's ute!

Neat's ute!


Having been given the 5 minute overview of happening places in Brissie I popped out, bought my Go travel pass and set off to explore areas of the city via the City Cat river ferry, a fabulous mode of transport which gets you into the heart of the city! South Bank is a mixture of cool and cosmopolitan and, despite it being school holidays and therefore teeming with kids, it had a really relaxed and friendly vibe. Off next to browse around the West End district, an altogether more alternative area with an amazing variety of eateries amongst the retro clothing stores, bookshops and assorted curiosity outlets, most of which seem to sell coffee in all its shapes and forms.
The City Cat

The City Cat

I think that just about sums it all up!

I think that just about sums it all up!


Friday consisted of loading a good number of pictures onto Facebook using Neat's pc (I created my milestone 100th album) and successfully finding the last hostel bed in Brisbane for saturday night. Neat and Sarah were hosting a big client bash in the house and all beds were taken - this party coincided with the last night of the Brisbane Festival celebrations which seemed to have filled every hotel, hostel and boarding house bed and probably any stables in the vacinity. My thanks went out to Base Hostel for having what must be an amazing single room available at just $55 for the night. Afternoon saw another trip on the City Cat to the CBD for a latte and snack before heading to the botanical gardens which had been effectively cordoned off to visitors ahead of the forthcoming Parklife Music Festival. Not surprisingly this restricted my viewing options to a couple of ponds with various birdlife on them, some very tall trees and a young couple practicing shinty of all things! All in all a fair day as the sun shone, caffeine was consumed and tomorrow nights lodging were secured - Neat got back around 9pm so after another quick catch up it was an early night as this particular fool was mucho knackered.
SAM_4220.jpgKorean musicians in their traditional understated headgear

Korean musicians in their traditional understated headgear

Sound, if oxymoronic, advice

Sound, if oxymoronic, advice


After swabbing the upper decking area of the house, packing and registering at Base (robbers, my room was an expensive prison cell!) its was back off into the CBD to meet my two favourite Austrian honeys from the Uluru tour, Elisabeth and Fiona for a catch up, scar update and long queue to get the best hot chocolate in Brissie. Afterwards I headed alone to Roo point and the iconic Story Bridge hotel and pub to watch some aussie rules game and to scout out my place by the river to watch the end of festival fireworks (while the Austrians returned to their couchsurfing hosts' place to prepare for a house party on the last night of their travels). Two beers for me and a storming comback by the Swans saw them overhaul the Hawks in a tense finish (so tense in fact that a few well oiled victorious supporters used their beers as unwanted shampoo on the vanquished sides followers, all good boisterous, harmless fun). There was one scary moment when I was stood next to a guy that I swear could have been the "down under" version of my good mate Mac Marshall. He didnt look like him but sounded exactly like him after a copious number of ales, he definitely spoke the same slurred, incomprehensible, pub-singer style of language at about 50 decibels louder than was necessary! Maybe I miss the guy and wanted someone else to be him there!
It was a great packed and noisy crowd, with a huge outdoor screen and a fitting finale to the AFL season  - bring on Riverfire!!!
Great place to watch the Grand Final

Great place to watch the Grand Final


The wait for the fireworks display dragged a bit but was livened up by a helicopter flying display and peoplewatching the continued influx of Brissie's families making a night of it by the riverside. The fireworks were pretty impressive and, from my vantage point by the bridge I got one of the best ground level views in the city. Afterwards I trudged back to the Base Hostel and my small, overpriced single person unit and prepared for some shuteye. Around half past something late, just before succumbing to slumber, my phone rang and two excitable female austrians fought against the loud background music to invite me out for a farewell drink or two at a local (yet hard to find) club. It was great to see the girls one last time before they headed home, with Fiona ready to head home to embrace her family and Elisabeth ruing the end of their adventure in equal measure - all in all a great end to the night.
Playing silly buggers with the Austrians

Playing silly buggers with the Austrians

Helichoppers over the river

Helichoppers over the river

Fireworks on the bridge

Fireworks on the bridge


The rest of my time in Brissie was spent either wandering round various parts of the city (including a daily trip on the Cat), experiencing some of the more "local knowledge" places with Neat (including a great sunday market and the Brekkie Ridge Hotel for the best steak dinner in the city), or laid up in bed waiting for an appointment with a chiropractor as my back went whilst "oohing and aahing" at the fireworks.
It's just a little bit of Rocky Road on a sunday!

It's just a little bit of Rocky Road on a sunday!

One of the many varied ferry entrances

One of the many varied ferry entrances


Neat is a marvellous host and was really cool about my extended loitering at her place because of my dodgy back. She works, plays and lives hard and is a marvellous example for all of us that drag ourselves through those "monday morning feeling" days, indefatiguably consuming every minute of her packed and energetic days. What with taking her lovely new puppy Cheeky on the daily 5 am run, running a successful and thriving company (Eyes On Business) and enjoying a wide circle of friends (from the gym workout group, to old work colleagues, to her co-conspirators cooking up possible new investment ventures) I was quite exhausted at times just watching from the sidelines. When the time came to move on I was even chauffeured to my next port of call, Byron Bay, skirting the hideously concrete landscape that is Surfers Paradise.

I really enjoyed my time in Brisbane, a cool, friendly and, dare I say it, hip city to spend a few days mooching around. I was very lucky as I had Neat's place to crash, her local knowledge to call upon and some shared time with her and some of her social circle, as well as reunions with Fiona and Elisabeth to enjoy. As with most places it is the people that make it special and that, along with my timing in arriving at the end of festival week, was most certainly the case here. I have no doubt that Neat and I will meet again in the future and I really look forward to that time, whenever and wherever it may be (Africa 2013/2014 maybe).

Posted by RoystonBoyston 01:05 Comments (0)

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