Queensland - The Sunshine Coast 13 - 23 April 2011

Trip Start Sep 09, 2010
Trip End May 28, 2011

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Flag of Australia  , Queensland,
Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wednesday 13th April - Cairns

Hot and humid in Cairns when I arrived at around 10am. There was a similar airport shuttle service to Darwin for $18 return so I booked that and was taken direct to the Bohemia Resort on McLeod Street. It looks like a nice place, it is a hostal but it has a pool, restaurant area and nice greenery surrounding the buildings, very different to some of the other types of hostals I’ve stayed at in the past. I’ve booked into another female only dorm, I did think about changing to see if they had any private rooms but then I thought of the price. This place is really cheap $16 a night, an absolute bargain for Australia - a single private room would be around $50. Anyway the room is ok pretty spacious and there is a bottom bunk free. I had a shower to freshen up and then booked myself onto a Great Barrier Trip for tomorrow at reception. As I can’t dive the cheapest option for a day trip is  to go out to Green Island where I can do some snorkelling and ride in a semi submarine. It was $115 including lunch and transport to and from the boat.

This is my first visit to Cairns, when I decided to come to Australia for my year of travelling I knew I wanted to see those parts of Oz I have not been to before. This is my 6th time down under and I've seen quite a bit of the country, inc Perth, Kalgoorlie, Broome, Bungle, Bungles, Esperance, Margaret River, Alice Springs, Ayers Rocks, Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane. So a few places left to do hence Darwin and Cairns being on my itinerary this time. I'd been looking forward to this part of the trip...

I walked into the town centre from the hostal….quite a trek a good 1.5km and in the midday heat it was wilting and not the most picturesque view, walking along busy roads and the hospital but eventually I found the esplanade and walked along the seafront. It is not a swimming beach and the tide was out, but the esplanade has lots of BBQ eating areas and some interactive story boards which provide a history of Cairns. Because Cairns itself doesn’t have a beach a few years ago they built a lagoon, which was full of people enjoying a splash in the sunshine. I had some lunch at a beach front cafe and it was now around 3pm, what could I do for the rest of the day? I went to the information centre, on the main seafront road oppose the lagoon, I could go on a sunset cruise for $20 in the evening…..but the only day it doesn’t run is on a Wednesday…today…all the other half day trips had already gone. The only other thing that looked quite interesting was a magic show at the casino. Sam Power is a nationally renowned magician who does daily evening shows. It was 75 mins and $49 - so I though what the heck it will be something to do. I then walked back to the hostal - it took about an hour, so I had a snooze when I got back before getting ready to go out. This time I got the bus which was only $2.50 and took me right outside the casino. I got there half an hour early so had a quick meal at a local café along the esplanade which is full of places to eat and drink.

Then the show began. This is probably the first time I’ve gone to something like this on my own. The venue within the casino is actually a nightclub so it was in the basement, and a bit dark and dingy, there was a bar and probably around 50 seats - so quite intimate. Anyway Sam Power is a young guy, probably late 20s - early 30s I’d say - tall, dark and some may say handsome.  He wore very tight black trousers which bulged in a few places!…and had a typically stick thin and bendy scantily clad attractive female assistant who he performed some very cheesy dance routines with before locking her up in a box and impaling her with spikes. He pulled a rabbit out of a hat, did some card tricks and escaped from a trunk whilst tied up with handcuffs etc etc, but he was pretty slick and there was not much room for error as we the audience were up close and within a few feet of the stage. The show finished around 9pm and I attempted to get the bus back. I’d been told to go to Lake Street where the bus station was.There was about 20 bus stops, so asit was getting late, I jumped on one but it had to drop me off about 3 blocks back to the hostal. I still ended up walking 15 mins in the dark on my own and got shouted at by a group of aboriginal women on the other side of the road which was a bit un-nerving but eventually got back ok.

Thursday 14th April - Great Barrier Reef/Green Island

Got picked up at the hostal for 8.20am and taken to the harbour to catch the Big Cat cruise boat to Green Island. It is only 15 km from Cairns but it took us about one and a half hours. There were a couple of seating areas inside. Cairns is in the sub tropic so it rains a lot - well especially during their wet season - and the landscape is very green and lush and because of the long rainy season this year and the cyclone that hit a few weeks back the reef visibility is not likely to be as good as it has been in previous years.

The Great Barrier Reef is the largest reef in the world. It has some of the world’s highest marine life diversity with over 450 types of corals, 1500 fish and 4,000 molluscs. Green Island is also a special place being the only sand bay on the GBR with a rain forest growing on it. I think to get a look at the best reefs and most colourful fish you really need to go further out and dive. But hey at least I can say I went snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef - even if I did look like a blue smurf/morph like creature. For protection again the sun and the jelly fish they advised us to wear these wet suits $8 extra, thinner than the normal rubber type ones, but they were blue and had a hood attached and pouches for hands and feet. I looked bloody ridiculous and only glad that I was by myself, no-one knew me and there is no photographic evidence of me looking ridiculous!

Well once we landed I found a beach area where you could hire a sun lounger with an umbrella but it wasn’t cheap. It was $20.….but as I was alone and I wanted a base for myself for the day I decided to hire one. I went swimming for about 20 mins and did see lots of fish but nothing particularly colourful or stunning, but it was still nice. The day trip included lunch so I headed back to the boat for midday and had a nice buffet meal. Then I went back to the beach to do some snorkelling this time without the ridiculous suit and a bit more sunbathing. My semi submarine ride was booked for 1.45pm. Spaces were limited probably only 20 or so people each trip which lasted 30 minutes. We saw some beautiful fish which swam up really close to the boat, bright blues and even some with black and strips like tiny zebras.

As I left the pontoon for my final hour on the island before returning so one of my flip flops broke. They were one of the pairs I bought in Bali and the sole was made of some type of woven wood type material ….I don’t think they are meant to get wet as one just disintegrated. Thankfully there was a shop that sold some flip-flops or thongs are they are called in Australia. But typically only designer ones so I got the cheapest ones that would fit - Reef - for $24 so turning out to be an expensive day. I then bought a packet of crisps for $4.…that is around £3.…blimey this is daylight robbery. I spent the rest of my time on the island walking around the rain forest boardwalk before heading back to the boat for 3.30pm. We were back in Cairns for 5pm. I’d booked a transfer back to the hostal so was back there by 5.30pm and straight into the shower. I repacked my backpack and then decided to head out to dinner. I was going to try somewhere local and then saw that the pool restaurant was opened so ordered a lasagna, which was very tasty. Must admit this is probably one hostal which I would like to spend more time at just hanging out around the pool. It looks very relaxed and chilled out. But alas I’m off again tomorrow.

Friday 15th April - Noosa - Sunshine Coast

It was only me in the room last night. One of the girls checked out last night and the other girl didn’t come back, so that enabled me to get ready in the morning with the lights on and not worry about disturbing anyone, as I was up at 4am… so all very relaxed, pack and on my way with airport shuttle service by 4.20am….My flight was with Virgin Blue, it was a relatively cheap flight down to Brisbane I booked a few weeks back for £100. The journey by bus is near on 2,000 km and would have taken a good couple of days, so decided to fly instead. The flight was just over one and a half hours. Arrived at Brisbane airport a shade before 8am. Right outside the exit was a shuttle bus service to the sunshine coast. I’d seen some companies on the internet with costs ranging from $30 to $44. This one was $51 so around £35 but would take me straight to Katherine’s door.

The journey was around 120km and took about 2 hours so by 11am I was sitting with Kath, the 3 kids and her mum and dad Clark and Audine with a cuppa in my hand. Clark and Audine Payne are old friends of my dad. Dad met Clark when he first came to Australia through work back in the mid 1970s and they’ve been friends ever since. I was even a pen friend to their other daughter Joanne for a few years when I was young. So it was lovely to catch up with everyone. The last time I saw Kath she had two kids Mignon and Alex but they were still babies - that was 5 years ago, she now has a third Chloe they are now 7, 6 and 4 respectively. Sweet kids but lively and a handful as you can imagine and unfortunately Kath has since split up from her husband so it’s even harder bringing them up by herself.

The weather was nice even though the forecast is rain, so we spent a few hours by the river estuary and relaxed for a couple of hours in the sun. But I’m shattered having had another very early start - actually had 5 early starts in a row since leaving Perth - oh for a lie in!

Saturday 16th April - Noosa

Clark and Audine left today they are driving home to Adelaide it’s over 2,000 km and will take them 4 days - rather them than me. We had a lazy day - we then went for an early walk up a small mountain for panoramic views of the area and then spent the afternoon in Noosaville and had pizza by the river for lunch.

Sunday 17th April - Noosa

We decided to go to Australia Zoo - which is about an hour’s drive - as a birthday treat too for Alex who is 6 tomorrow. This is the zoo previously owned by the late, great and unforgettable ‘crocodile hunter’ Steve Irwin and is now run by this wife Terri. It cost us £180 for a family of 5 ticket.Formerly known as the Beerwah Reptile Park and is now a 70 acre park with over 1,000 animals indigenous and non natives from alligators and cros to cassowaries, dingoes, elephants, kangaroos and tigers. The forecast was rain but actually it was nice and sunny as we arrived. We fed the elephants and kangaroos and we also saw the crocodile show in the main arena which was hosted by Terri Irvine and her kids Bindi and Bobby, which was entertaining and finished just as it started to rain. It actually turned out to be a typically English summer’s day, sunshine and showers. But it was a really enjoyable day out and great fun for the kids. Recommended if you are ever near the Sunshine Coast or Brisbane. Dad and Bron are due into Sydney this evening - will be meeting up on Saturday in Melbourne.

Monday 18th April - Noosa

It is Alex’s birthday today and also time for the kids to spend some a few days with their dad Frankie and give Kath some well earned peace and quiet. It’s also hideous weather, it rains for most of the day and it is now like a typical winter’s day in England - all dark and gloomy. Quite a contrast with the weather I’ve had whilst in Australia but finally the rain has caught up with me. But it is a bit strange without the kids - they are very lively and noisy but the house does feel empty and eerily quiet without them.

Tuesday 19th April - Gold Coast

I’m getting the train down to the Gold Coast. I can get to Nerang on the Gold Coast, where Deb’s lives in about 4 hours via Brisbane from Noosa (Cooroy) and from Nerang I can go direct to the domestic airport, so all working out well and it’s a bargain. All it is costing is $23 dollars. I left at 1.50pm and got to Deb’s at 5.30pm. Deb is Chris’ sister and I’ve met her a few times, first at Chris’ 40th nearly 8 years ago and then last time Dad and I were here. She has one son Jessie who is now 15 - he’s changed a bit since I saw him last time when he was 10 and wearing a Darth Vader mask!

Wednesday 20th April

Lazy day just updating my blog. It’s nice to do nothing and not have to worry about getting a bus, train or aeroplane.

Thursday 21st April

Went to the 21st Century Art in the first decade exhibition at the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane which Debs had recommended. Got the train direct to South Brisbane from Helensvale, about and hour, and $12 single. The complex is situated on the South Bank and very similar to its namesake, with modern concrete buildings by the river. The South Bank includes a Natural History Museum, the Queensland Art Gallery and the Modern Art Gallery and it’s all free. Debs took me to the train station first thing and I was there by 9.30am. It was a lovely way to spend the day, which was again rain free, unlike the weather forecast which has for the last two days predicted rain…and there has been none. I spent about 3 hours at the modern gallery. The exhibition was showcasing more than 200 works featuring over 140 artists from more than 40 countries. There were a number of interactive displays including two spiral-shaped slides, a diamond encrusted skull by Damien Hurst, a swimming pool which you could walk under...and a major sound work in which visitors shared the gallery with live finches. 

In the evening Debs and I then went to a place called Elephant Rock, a surf club, over looking the sea with views of two states, Surfers Paradise, Queensland and New South Wales on either side, didn’t realise we were so close to the state border. Met up with a friend of Deb’s called Jason and had a nice meal or lamb cutlets. We were also witness to the stunning rise of a near full, and very orange moon. It literally rose out of the sea it was quite a bizarre sight something I’ve never seen before. Pretty tired though after a day of intellectual stimulation at the galleries.

Friday 22nd April - Good Friday

Got up early to go and see Brendon, Deb’s ex partner, they split up a year or so ago but are still on good terms. I met Brendon last time I was in the Gold Coast so he invited us over for morning coffee and hot cross buns. It was nice to catch up with him. He is living in this apartment, part of a complex which has an inviting looking communal swimming pool and was a 10 minute walk to the beach. The weather was nice in the morning but showers later in the afternoon. It was a DVD evening Tron - the Legacy; The American with George Clooney and Meet the Little Fockers.

Saturday 23rd April

Got the train from Helensvale direct to the domestic airport it was $28 I thought it would be cheaper but hey it got me there in one and a half hours. Flight was with Qantas left at 10.55 and got me to Melbourne at just gone 1pm. I thought Dad and Bron would be waiting for me in the baggage claim area as we had arranged. I thought their flight got in at 11.30am….but they were no where to be seen. I walked around and then saw on arrival screens that their flight had just landed, I’d got the wrong times. So all good and we got a taxi into the city which was $50. We are staying at the City Gate hotel right in the heart of town opposite Flinders railway station.

So what do I think of Queensland? I like what I saw of Cairns, there are many more places that I could have visited and could have easily stayed on for a few more days, but disappointed in the Great Barrier Reef. I thought I would be blown away but its beauty, but no and unfortunately I didn't see amazing colourful fish whilst snorkelling. I think though there are nicer islands and really you need to go diving further out to see the wonderful marine life that I know is out there. Noosa and the Gold Coast seem very laid back and chilled out towns, it's all about outdoor life, surfing and a great place to be if that's what you are into - but not really me. Still not sure I have found my ideal town or city or even country to live in though...maybe Melbourne will come up trumps or maybe it just doesn't exist?
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