Back in the Big City

Trip Start Sep 15, 2006
Trip End ??? ??, 2007

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Flag of Australia  ,
Thursday, April 19, 2007

We'd met Dan in a hostel in Italy, and he'd encouraged us to drop in and stay a few nights in Brisbane on our way up the coast.  We were taking the words "drop in" very literally now, calling the day of our arrival to see if we could stay with him.  Due to the isolation in Nimbin, we just hadn't been able to make the call before.  His secretary said he was in meetings all day, and his cell went to voice mail.  Cierra left a hopeful message, and then we caught the bus toward the train station. 

We're definitely in surfer's country now, as half of the bleach blond kids hopping on and off the bus had a board under their arm.  After a while, we got to the station, bought train tickets, and looked into the possibilities for further rail travel up the coast.  As we traveled into the city we talked about it, and were ready to book when we arrived at Brisbane Central Station.  We had been planning to purchase a rail pass, but the agent we spoke to actually saved us a big wad of money over the pass price by booking us cheap tickets.  Now we were ticketed to go up the coast to Airlie Beach on Sunday, then on to Townsville on Friday.  Due to time restrictions, we just weren't going to make it to Cairns. 

Stowing our luggage with a locksmith shop in the station, we walked out into Brisbane's downtown area.  Clean, bustling, treelined streets reminded us of our home city of Charlotte.  We walked down to the river and across the Victoria Bridge to South Bank, where we made use of Queensland's State Library and its free internet access.

Dan had emailed us in the interim.  He had a retreat at work that would keep him busy until late tonight and during the day tomorrow, but we were welcome to come and stay if that suited us.  We got directions and went back to the station to grab our stuff, took another short train trip and walk, and soon were knocking on Dan's door. 

Kylie, Dan's wisecracking, flamboyant older sister, threw open the door and welcomed us inside.  Dan's girlfriend Jacinda, relaxed and chatty, sat us down on the couch and offered drinks.  The girls were having a Ladies Night excursion to a footie (rugby) match and were already half-lit in preparation, so we tried to stay out of everyone's way, and pet the little chihuahua, Trixie, who was a serious attention hound. 

Dan came through the front door, even though he was supposed to be out until late.  I said "Hey there!" in a knowing manner, and Dan took his sunglasses off and wasn't Dan at all.  Turns out it was Dan's cousin Josh, who shared the apartment with Dan and Jacinda.  We chatted with Josh a bit, and then he let us tag along on a grocery run before he took the girls to their game. 

Once everyone had gone, Trixie found us scary and retreated to a bedroom, eyes glittering in the darkness whenever we walked by in the hall.  We cooked up dinner in the kitchen and watched "The Sixth Sense" on TV, along with about 30 commercial breaks.  Finally, the real Dan came home, looking thoroughly disgusted with his job.  He'd snuck out of the dinner at the earliest opportunity, and now we got to chat.  He poured us a drink of the local specialty, Bundaberg Rum (and coke), which had a surprisingly good, and strong, taste.  No small wonder, then, that we started to feel sleepy soon afterwards. 

Dan had to go to work early the following day, but we stuck around for a while and chatted with the girls, who were hungover from the night before.  We then took the train into Brisbane and had a wonderful walk through the city's garden areas on both sides of the river.  After a 10-year drought, Brisbane is running out of water and has banned watering gardens, so many of the plants in the park were looking wilted.  But a brilliantly designed public water park was open and fountaining away as if nothing had happened.  We visited the Queensland Museum, which did a great job outlining the ecology of the area as well as giving us new things to be afraid of in Australia.  The Giant Bird-Eating Spider is about as big as my head, black and furry (also like my head.) Apparently, if you see one in the wild, the best defense is to let out a high-pitched scream and wet your pants.  Actually, that won't protect you, but that would be my first response anyway.

That evening, Dan and Jacinda took us out to Norman's, "Brisbane's Worst Vegetarian Restaurant" for Queensland's best steak.  It was by far the best steak I've had since this trip began, and I cannot write much more than that due to the danger of drenching my keyboard in drool and causing a short circuit.  Dan and Jacinda's hospitality for our all too short stay in Brisbane was outstanding, and when they dropped us at the rail station the following morning, we thanked them and asked them to allow us to return the favor should they ever come through the States.

We now had a train ride north on the Sunlander in store.  The full route to Cairns takes 32 hours, but we were getting off after a mere 19, arriving near Airlie Beach around 4 am the next morning.  The wide, green country rolled slowly by our window all day as we read and wrote.  I finished the book I was reading, caught up my writing, and Cierra took an afternoon nap that stretched out for hours.

Sometime around 3, Australia's leading candidate for Most Annoying Little Girl in the World got on and sat right next to us, along with her mother.  She colored, she sang, she asked questions, all at top volume.  "Mommy, I'm hungry, Mommy, what's that? I have to go to the bathroom."

Mommy, clearly exasperated, kept sneaking off to some other car with instructions to Annoying to "stay right there and be quiet".  Neither directive was followed for very long in her absence, and soon Annoying was hanging over her own seat back, telling the old lady behind her that "My mommy gave me a really good breakfast this morning."
"Great," the lady carped back.  "I hope she's got some really good sleeping pills for you tonight."

What a nasty old lady, we thought.  But it wasn't too long before we were right there with her.  When bedtime rolled around, Annoying created a new game which she started playing with a few kids in the car called "Scream Like a Banshee." Her Mom, now sitting half a car away, would ask her to be quiet every once in a while, and then do nothing when she wasn't.  Hey people, raising kids is a job, but it's not just like you're the boss, and you can get it done just by sitting at your desk, issuing memos.  No, you're going to have to go down on the floor and turn the screws yourself.  Nobody else is going to do it for you.

And please, please don't let me hear you say what this mother said...  "Please shut up!" That kid's going to have a really awesome set of manners. 

Of course, I have a lot of room to talk.  When I was awakened by the conductor for the 4 am Airlie Beach stop, it took all my willpower to keep from "accidentally" bumping the sleeping kid's seat with my fist a few times. 
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