Two words everyone - Gold Coast
Trip Start Aug 25, 2008
53Trip End Oct 17, 2008
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How can you not love a place where the garbage trucks are painted pink and the sides say rubbish relocation? After nine hours too long on an Air Asia Airbus A330 I felt like rubbish and after 20 minutes on the beach I was ready to relocate here. The water is a clear bluish green like I have never seen before. I'm in the heart of the Gold Coast about 100km south of Brisbane in a laid back city called Coolangatta. Right up the road is another city named Surfers Paradise and you can figure that one out. It's spring here and for the first time my trip I am neither hot or cold. It's just blue non humid skies as far as you can see.
From what I have seen in my short time here aleady, about all we share in common with Australia are McDonalds, Subway, 7-11, and English (sort of). I really thought it would be so much like the US in many ways that I'd have nothing interesting to write about for you. Man was I wrong. I am the happiest here that I have been since I left home. Cape Town, you have some competition here. All I can say is wow, wow, wow. Can you tell I like the place? Wow.
The differences started right off at the Hertz counter. The nice girl there was obviously pleased to have real live, in the flesh Americans right across the counter from her. She quickly volunteered that this part of Australia is like Orange County. I asked her if she had been there, and it turns out she had only seen the place on The OC. She's a big fan of the show and went on and on about this season's plot. This indeed confirms my suspicions that foreigners do actually believe what they see on our TV.
I asked her for a map, and she laid what I thought was a thick Yellow Pages on the counter. We sat in silence and I asked again, and she just gave me a nod. She pushed the book closer to me, and I realized you don't get one of those crappy maps of just the freeways and major roads and maybe downtown if you are lucky. I asked if she had something smaller, maybe pocket size, and she gave me a look as foreign as the American talking to her. Out to the car with this 400 page book we went.
After trying to get in the left side of the car, I made my way over to the right side. If you forget somehow you aren't in Kansas anymore, Hertz even provides a friendly reminder sticker in the windshield to "Drive Left" complete with arrow. They haven't found a way though to keep me from constantly going to the wrong side to get in. And if that's not enough to remind you that you are somewhere far away from home, you pass signs for Kangaroo crossings along the roads. Again, how can you not love it here? My senses were the most alive since leaving home believe it or not.
We found our way from the beach up into the mountains to visit Springbrook National Park. All I will say is wow again. It's a rainforest up there and imagine walking on eucalyptus perfumed trails in 70 degree air under a canopy of trees. All the fresh air knocked that stale airplane air right out of my lungs. There were even birds making sounds I had never heard before in all my travels. Rounding a corner there was suddenly the sound of rushing water and the view opened up to a waterfall in the distance plunging hundreds of feet into a rainbow hued mist. Wow.
After an awesome hike we were back at the car and an older man overheard the American accents. He asked if I was in the service because of my short hair I presume and I told him no. He squinted while studying me inquisitively and I was preparing myself for the anti-American onslaught about to come my way. In my head I was thanking Bush for the venom about to be hurled at me. Instead, he just said, "You've got Hurricane Ike in the Gulf headed toward Houston and Hurricane Sarah headed from Alaska toward Washington, don't you?" I liked his sense of humor but was more impressed with his knowledge of our current events, geography, and election. I don't even know who runs Australia.
Some more Aussies heard our accents and approached us to tell us they don't get many Americans this way. I was waiting for the punchline or the America comments but they never came. I was definitely getting that impression, too that Americans stick to Sydney mostly. We were a novelty to them. One asked if the hike was nice since she had lived nearby her whole life but had never been. I love the irony of two Americans fresh off the plane telling natives about the wonders of their own national park in Springbrook.
After hiking in another location to another waterfall we hit the roads back to the beaches. On the way we stopped for some drinks at a McDonalds of all places and I asked the girl for a medium decaf coffee. At first glance it appeared she was taking great care to process my order and I was pleased since you don't get this level of service in the US. She finally offered up that they only have small or large. No worries, give me a large then. Something was obviously still up and you could feel her brain churning and churning. She finally left the register to consult with her coworkers who kept glancing back at me.
Geez, all I wanted is a decaf coffee, and the production in the whole place had ground to a halt. She finally came back and said they don't carry that brand of coffee but in a few months check back because that particular McDonalds was getting a McCafe. Evidently Aussies like their coffee strong in these parts. You know what though? I like it here enough that it just may be worth a return trip one day to hunt down that elusive Aussie brewed cup of decaf at a McCafe.
This place is friendly and beautiful and I will post some pics tomorrow when I get a chance. For now I hope you have enough of a description to fill your imagination. We are skipping Sydney and staying here. So you can see that other than sharing English it is a whole different world down under. It's absolute paradise. And to our friend at the Hertz counter who thinks this is just like the OC...Your wonderful little corner of the earth is nothing like the OC, and please keep it that way.