Arriving in Sydney, Australia was a very exciting event for us. After almost five months of hard core traveling in Asia we were finally going to be in a western country again. We decided to celebrate our arrival by drinking several of the complimentary mini red wine bottles on our Qantas flight. Once we arrived in Sydney we had to
make a mad dash to catch our plane to Brisbane (known by the locals as Brizzy), which is an east coast city in the south of the state of Queensland. We arrived in Brisbane late at night and immediately fell in love with the place. It reminded us so much of where we grew up in Portland, Oregon, which is relatively the same size and has many of the quirky, cool neighborhoods. After checking into our barebones hostel room, which set us back $80 (ouch!), we went to get something to eat. As we wandered, everything seemed to be closed, but then suddenly we saw a beacon of light in the darkness. It was the Burger King logo, but in place of the Burger King name, it said “Hungry Jacks”. Inside, it was just like Burger King and had the same Whopper hamburgers. We were told that Australia has another restaurant with the name Burger King already, so they were forced to call it a different name in Oz. After scarfing down our Whopper meals (I have to admit we don’t eat these at home, but it tasted pretty damn good) we decided to go for a bit of a wander around the city. It was around 11 pm but we were not tired at all. After walking for a while we came across a botanical garden, which was quite beautiful. Adam jokingly said something like “OK…we’re in Australia now. I want to see a marsupial”. About two minutes later, we noticed some really cute little fuzzy animals, and noticed that they did not try to run away. In fact if you stood in one place for a while they would come to check you out. We were told later that they are a type of possum, and they are much cuter than the hideous ones we have in North America. Instead of having a horrible pointy face and a rat tail, these are cute and have a fluffy tail and a cute face, a bit like a little raccoon.
The next morning we decided to get a good pancake breakfast, it just sounded really good. It did turn out to be very tasty, but I don’t think I have EVER paid $14 for a short stack, a piece of bacon, and a coffee! I really do miss our cheap breakfast joints. After breakfast (or breakie) in Oz, we went to go drop our luggage off with our friend Kerri. We met Murray and Kerri while on a tour of Thailand two years ago. They were a lot of fun in Thailand, so we exchanged emails and have kept in contact. When they heard we were coming to Australia, they were nice enough to open their home to us, as well as take some time off work to show us their area that they are so proud of (and rightfully so)! After a trip to Target for Shawn to buy a pair of jeans (she missed jeans too much) we met Murray and Keri and the BMW that they borrowed from their friends to take us around in, and we headed towards their home in the Paddington area of Brisbane. We had a great evening eating pasta, and drinking great Australian red wine. It was just one of those evenings when you just keep saying to yourself, “Isn’t life great!”
Our plan for the next day was to get up fairly early, have breakie and head to Byron Bay. It couldn’t have been a more perfect day for this. Once we arrived at Byron we had lunch and a beer and then we all made a mad dash for the beautiful beach and water. We read the conditions sign on our way to lay our towels on the sand and it read PERFECT!!, and that was exactly right. The water was refreshing, clean, and clear and we just had a ball body surfing and swimming in the water. I really don’t think we’ve ever seen water this clear, with the possible exception of Crater Lake. It had to be at least 30-meter visibility! After our great time in the water we just couldn’t resist a fruit flavored New Zealand gelati. It just topped it all off. We also visited the butcher to get sausages and satays for our BBQ later that evening. Before leaving Byron bay, however, we decided to drive up to the lighthouse that overlooks the bay. It was incredible up there and we could even see a few sea turtles swimming in the surf below. We also took a little walk out to the most eastern spot on the mainland of Australia.
After leaving Byron Bay we began to make our way out in the county side to a park called Natural Arch, named after a rock arch that goes across the river. This is where we decided to have our BBQ. Murray and Keri decided to bring their own grill that evening, but it is very common in parks to have community grills set up and we saw many, many people cooking on them. After eating we made our way down to the arch where there is a cave behind the waterfall that is behind it. We had been seeing glowworms all the way down the trail, but once we got into the cave it looked like a night city on the cave. Small bats were flying in and out and once our eyes adjusted we didn’t even need our lights to see by. It was just really magical! It also turned out that we enjoyed the cave just at the right time, because just as we were leaving a couple of highly obnoxious tour buses arrived with stupid tourists thinking that it would be a great idea to take a night hike in the rainforest wearing high healed shoes, they also were making a lot of noise, so bolted out of there once we reached the car. This was a great day, but very busy and I think we were all asleep that night before any of our heads even hit the pillow!
We decided to take the next day a bit easier. Murray and Kerri introduced us to Hot Cross Buns for breakie. As a fourth grader learning to play the recorder in music class, Hot Cross Buns was the first song my class learned how to play. I always wondered what they were, but my teacher didn’t know either and we just learned the tune without knowing what it meant. Now I know! Hot Cross Buns are little cinnamon and raisin buns and on the top they have an X or a cross. I have also seen chocolate chip ones in the stores, but we just stuck with the cinnamon and raisin ones. At Murray and Kerri’s we would usually toast them in the oven before buttering them up to drink with our morning coffee.
Adam and I were dying to see some of Australia’s cute marsupial mammals, so Murray and Kerri took us to a conservation center where we could see some. These animals were in captivity, but it was our best chance to see a duck-billed platypus. This is a very odd animal that appears to be pieced together with parts left over from a duck and a beaver. He was very active while we were there and we really enjoyed watching this little guy. We also found out that they have venomous spurs on the back of their legs. What isn’t poisonous or venomous in Oz though! Sometimes you think that the country was meant to kill you. A good policy is to remember not to touch anything when out in the bush, as even some of the plants are poisonous. While at the center we also had our first chance to pet a kangaroo. They are very soft and so, so cute. After leaving the center we decided to go to the fish market to get our supplies for our seafood BBQ later that evening. Murray and Kerri had been telling us about the Morton Bay Bugs and so we had to try them. Morton Bay Bugs very similar to a lobster and are very tasty on the grill, Murray also grilled up some great prawns that evening as well. What a feast!
The next morning we decided to head up to Noosa Beach, which is just north of Brisbane. When we got there the water wasn’t as nice as it was on our perfect day in Byron Bay, but it was a beautiful coastal city and we had a great lunch there with a beautiful view of the ocean. It was a really nice city to walk around and had cute little clothing boutiques, so I thought I would take a look. An adorable little cotton skirt caught my eye and it was on the 50% off rack so I took a look at the tag. Oh my! It had been marked down to $250 from $500! Holy Crap! I would have paid $20- $30 for something like that, but $250!! Kerri just laughed and said that Noosa was a VERY expensive place to shop, even by Aussie standards. On the way back to Brisbane we had our first glimpse at a wild kangaroo, hanging out by the roadside. Kangaroos are plentiful and are known to be a major traffic hazard, like deer are in North America, so many people in Australia, especially in the rural areas, have big front bumper cages on their cars. People joke in Australia about the fact that they eat the animal on their countries emblem. Kangaroo meat is low fat and apparently very tasty and there is plenty of it, so…..
Since Murray and Kerri had to go back to work on Monday, it gave us a good excuse to lay a little low for a couple of days. The rains also came and went so that was another great excuse. Kerri’s birthday was on Monday and even though we stayed home that night, Murray had a few tricks up his sleeve for Tuesday night. He came home at lunch to go through his enormous wine fridge picked out numerous bottles of champagne and red wine. The plan was to have a multi course catered dinner at their friends amazing water front town house. However, Kerri just thought that we were going to go there for a drink before going to dinner at a restaurant. Once we arrived at the town house and Kerri saw the beautifully set table she asked Murray, “So will we be having dinner here tonight?” That was when everyone came out of the woodwork and the fabulous night began. We started with champagne, sparkling red wine (which we had never had before, but loved), and a cheese platter). The night was pure indulgence, especially after roughing it for so long. We were given a tour of the town house and it was just beautiful. On the main level, was the open living area, kitchen, and dining room. There was a retractable roof on the front of the house that was open to show off the tops of the historic buildings in the neighborhood. The wall on the back of the house also opened to face the river, so the whole place had a great airy feeling to it, and it was a perfect evening so having the house open and breezy was great. After our starter of wine and cheese, we were invited to sit down for the meal. Adam was given one of the leather, head of the table chairs, so he looked like quite the dignitary sipping on his wine. Our first course was some great scallops, they were sweet and just perfect. As if the scallops were not enough, out came the lamb with figs, which was equally as amazing. We also had a great dessert- it was a caramel bread pudding, with a caramel sauce and fresh whipped cream. That was he best dessert I have had in awhile. Of course, as we ate all of this the wine continued to flow. Murray did a great job of choosing the perfect champagne, pinot, and shiraz for the evening. Poor Kerri! Since she is pregnant got to be the designated driver at her own party. She graciously loaded us funny people into the car and carted us home, and then poured us all into bed.
We decided since we were in Australia to go ahead and do something more touristy than we would usually do, and go to the Australia Zoo. The Australia Zoo was founded by the parents of the late Steve Irwin- the ‘Crocodile Hunter’, and is now left to Steve’s wife Terri and their two children Bindi and Bob. Immediately upon entering you notice that this place is a memorial to Steve. I understand that he was a big part of the place and was very famous after his television show, but it was really a bit much. He was everywhere! Life size cardboard cutouts, television monitors (even on the shuttle bus), and if I don’t have to hear the word ‘crikey’ again it will be too soon. But even after this, the Australia Zoo is really a good place and most of the animals seemed to be very happy there. We watched the Tasmanian Devil try to make a running jump to escape for quite awhile. This was also the first place where we really felt that the tiger that they had in captivity was pretty happy. We also enjoyed seeing the adorable koalas there, they were just irresistible! Kangaroos were also plentiful there and we liked being able to walk around the kangaroo park and being able to pet the kangaroos to our hearts content.
After seeing the Australia Zoo we hopped on the free shuttle bus and met our friends in Maroochedore, a small coastal community where Murray was having a work function that evening. Kerri also drove up with Murray so when Murray was at his function the three of us hung out at the two bedroom condo we had for the night.
The next morning we took a nice beach walk, had breakfast and headed back to Brisbane. We still had plenty of planning to do for our Great Barrier Reef portion of our Oz trip, so we spent the afternoon online taking care of that. Since it was Thursday and the next day was Good Friday (and everyone has Good Friday off in Oz), once Murray got home we went out and celebrated the fact that they were now on their two week holiday off from work.
Good Friday morning we slept in, took some time on the back deck drinking coffee, and enjoying the beautiful morning. We had been invited to Murray’s sister’s for a BBQ that day, so we had yet another chance to gorge ourselves on the amazing seafood in Queensland. We had a couple of kinds of prawns to eat, a salad, and of course a great cake (Aussies really like their cake!). After this we had to dart back to Murray and Kerri’s to get ready to fly out that evening to Cairns. What a great time we had in Brisbane!
Coming up next- Our dive trip on the Great Barrier Reef. Another great experience that we will never forget!
Aussie- an Australian person
Boardies- Board Shorts
Togs- Bathing Suit
J.C.’s- Short for Jesus Christ, but referring to sandals.
Eskie- Cooler or Ice Chest
Boot- Trunk of the car
Feral – Dirty, smelly hippie. A wild human- commonly has ratted matted hair sprouting from his head, even if he is white.
Salties- Saltwater crocodiles
Cracker- Used when making a positive comment such as “It’s a cracker of a day” or “Wow! That’s a cracker of a view”.
Bush Walking- Hiking
Give it a go- Give it a try
No worries or No Dramas- No Problem
Bloke- A man or a guy