Austrailia - Surfers Paradise

Trip Start Dec 05, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Monday, January 16, 2006

Day 1

In one of our earlier starts we arose at 6:45am and finished packing our things before saying goodbye to Diane and Peter, the managers of the Sunseeker and probably the nicest couple of hotel staff we have come across ever!

As usual the bus arrived on time, and we departed for Surfers Paradise. The journey took 1hr 50mins but as Byron is in New South Wales and Surfers is in Queensland (1 hour time difference) we arrived only 50mins after we left! We booked some accommodation on the journey and were met at the Surfers Transit Centre by the shuttle bus to the hostel.

The hostel, the Surfers Paradise Backpackers Resort, was fairly average in price at $72 (29 GBP) per night for a double room in a self-contained 2 bedroom apartment (PICS). However, the small description of the place in our Rough Guide was quite misleading. The description declared it was a purpose built, spotlessly clean and efficient hostel - we experienced none of this. The first indication was the nonchalant staff and the 25 min wait to be shown to our room, the second was the fact that our room hadn't been cleaned and was very basic and scummy and the staff weren't too concerned that we wanted it to be cleaned ASAP.

We headed out to the beach, about 5 minutes down the road, to see what 'paradise' actually looked like. Walking along the beach we spotted in the distance what appeared to be a tornado or cyclone, it was tricky to see and even harder to capture on the camera (PIC) but it was not too surprising as it is the season for it, historically the reason that drew the surfers into the area many years ago.

It was about a 45 minute walk into the main CBD of Surfers where all the restaurants and shops are located, a walk we weren't quite expecting as the hostel was supposed to be 'centrally located'. The main area of Surfers is very built up with many high-rise flats and small skyscrapers dominating the skyline. It doesn't actually have that much to offer and as we have read in a couple of books, the main draw is now that fact that it is a famous name on the main backpackers drag - rather than having any discerning features or even any great surf that you would expect.

We continued to wander around the shop laden streets before escaping the sudden downpour by spending a while in an internet cafe and then taking advantage of Pizza Huts all-you-can-eat offer.

Our intention, after reading about Surfers in the Rough Guide, was to spend the one full day we had at one of the theme parks in the area. There are four theme parks to be considered; SeaWorld, MovieWorld, Wet'n'Wild, and DreamWorld. Dreamworld was our choice as is features the best thrill rides of the four. We therefore bought our tickets at the Surfers Transit Centre for a $4 discount, this brought the price down to $58 (23 GBP) and was about the biggest discount we could get.

After having our fill of italian goodness we took the bus to Pacific Fair - an out-of-town shopping area about 10 mins drive on the other side of our hostel. Pacific fair has the only cinema in Surfers and we decided to go and watch King Kong instead of staying in Surfers city (which just gets rowdy in the evenings) or returning to our dump of a hostel.

The film was made all the more entertaining as halfway through a group of young lads decided to act like fools and start making noise. After ignoring numerous shouts from other cinema goers to 'shut up', a couple of blokes went down to them and ended up slapping one of the lads before getting them thrown out of the theatre. They hadn't really disrupted much of the film and we thought no more about it until we left the screen, whereby we were both given a free pass to any film we wanted in the future!

On returning to the hostel we showered and made it to bed by midnight.

Day 2

The buses to DreamWorld depart fairly regularly from anywhere along the main strip in Surfers, and we caught the 9:40am bus which got us into the park at 10:50. The park only opens at 10am so we hadn't missed much rollercoaster time.

Our pre-paid tickets allowed us to get in straight away without queueing and we immediately made our way to the most visually imposing ride in the park, the giant drop. This is basically a tall tower which you are raised up and then dropped from. It is very similar to numerous others around the world but it seemed to be a bigger drop than others we have been on in the past. The only problem, was that the ride was only working at half capacity and this meant we had a 1hr 20min wait to get on - it probably wasn't worth that length of wait - but it was very good.

The next stop was the mine train, a 20 min wait for a rather jerky and uncomforatble ride with few drops. We then tried out the 'Claw' (PIC) which had a much shorter 10 min wait and was probably the best ride we went on all day, our stomachs were in our mouths every couple of seconds!

Next was 'Wipeout' which had a longer wait and was not as good as a similar ride in Alton Towers, and then 'Cyclone' which is their closest ride to a traditional rollercoaster but was certainly not worth the 45min wait. 'Vortex', a spinning cage where you get pressed against the outside was a straight-on affair but didn't really wow us and the final ride before our late lunch was the 'Tower of terror'. This is a type of rollercoaster which shoots you from 0 to 80mph in a couple of seconds and carries you up the same tower that the Giant Drop uses, and then lets you freefall backwards to the start point. This was probably the next best ride in the park, mainly because of the unexpected acceleration at the beginning.

On the way to finding somewhere for food, we passed a small enclosure containing a few hand-reared Bengal tigers, including a white one (PICS) - a strange addition to a theme park but supposedly having some ecological benefits?!

After lunch we strolled around to the 'Blue Lagoon' waterpark but decided that it was too busy (kids still on holiday here!) and the few mediocre slides weren't worth getting wet for (miserable buggers eh!?). Instead we opted to get wet on the River Country Log Flume and the Thunder Valley River Rapids. Whilst queueing for the Log Flume we were joined by a few unexpected visitors (PIC) who tucked into a couple of grapes thrown to them by other park guests. As anticipated the rides got us soaked!

By the time we had changed out of our wet clothes, the park was closing (5:30pm) and it was time to get the bus back to Surfers. On arriving back at the hostel we gave the pool a quick try but didn't stay too long as the scum covered tiles weren't entirely inviting and the evening was getting a lot cooler.

A lazy evening in front of the TV followed as we soaked up the winners and losers of the Golden Globes before disappearing to bed at midnight.

Evidently we hadn't foresaken a crazy night out on the tiles as one of our flat mates returned after less than an hour saying that the town 'was dead'.
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