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So you may be asking yourselves….”what exactly has Jill been learning on this journey of self-discovery?” Well, I now know that even if you think you’re being nice by letting an overly-helpful, partially senile old man help you with a flat tire – you should probably just take care of it yourself.
So Stacey and I met up last week, here in Brisbane, and we rented ourselves a Jucy Camper-van. These are great vehicles – totally self-contained: bed, fridge, stove..we were all set. We headed South, stopping here and there along the coast, finally to find ourselves in Byron Bay. This is a beautiful town…gorgeous beaches, lots of surfing, cool shops to check out. We had a swim and checked out the nightlife, and although it slowed us down the next day, we had a great time and met lots of interesting people that night.
In the morning we continued South to a small town called Ballina. The scenery was spectacular – lush, green, rolling hills spotted with trees full of large, shockingly bright, purple flowers. We ooh-ed and ahh-ed as we climbed the hills and saw the coast in the distance…. and to cap off a perfect afternoon we found a great sushi place right in the middle of the wee village. Unexpected and Perfect.
That day we made our way back up North, past Brisbane and over to the Sunshine Coast. Lots of driving, through rush hour, but we had some tunes and good conversation to keep us occupied. We hit up a little town called Noosa. This is a favourite spot of Stacey’s and I can see why! We spent a couple of days exploring the beaches and parks.
We headed inland to the Sunshine Coast Hinterlands and explored the many small towns in the area. We saw the Glass House Mountains which look beautiful, if not slightly out of place in the surrounding countyside.
Although we had planned to camp out in the hinterlands, the ocean called to us. We did some research and found out that even though there was a triathlon happening that weekend, there was space available at a beach-side camp ground in Mooloolaba. Great!
As we entered the little camp ground and I made to back into our reserved spot, an older gentleman appeared out of nowhere. He began directing me… abruptly – with no real words (just aggressive, yet unclear, hand movements). This relatively simple manoever required very little driving skill, yet, somehow it took almost ten minutes. It was hot…I had been driving for hours….I just wanted to park and head to the beach, but this man was really trying to be helpful so we continued to humour him and finally made it into the exact spot we were supposed to be in. It, really was, a fine parking job….sigh.
Thus began our relationship with the old man. He is a permanent resident at the park and although he’s not paid, he helps out by tidying up and directing traffic. His wife told us that about six months ago he decided that one of the trees in the park needed pruning. With no prompting, he climbed the tree and started to cut down the huge pine-cone-like fruit growing from the palm. Well these fruit are, apparently, really heavy; one managed to fall on the poor guy, throwing him from said tree. He broke his hip and was off his feet for months. This is very sad, but I can’t help giggling to myself as I write this. He’s trying so hard to be helpful!
The next day we realized that one of the tires was a little flat. It was a slow leak, if anything ,so we planned to fill the tire up at the local gas station before heading out for the day. Wouldn’t you know it: the old man showed up again – really, as if out of nowhere, and stopped us as we were pulling out. He pulled off the hubcap (we’re not sure why…) and started to fiddle with it. He managed to actually break off a piece of it and then couldn’t replace it. I got it back on and we thanked him for his ‘help’ and tried to get going. He stopped us at the gate and told us he had a pump and would fill the tire up. He hulled out this piece of machinery from WWI (there may have been a mouse and a wheel in there somewhere, I can’t be sure) and hooked it up to the tire. We all stood there watching the tire deflate. It took us a couple of minutes to convince him it wasn’t working…we unhooked the crazy generator gadget and, luckily, had enough air to make it to the gas station. With only 6psi left – we successfully filled it up to the required 34psi and made our way inland to explore. Drama complete.
So we had a good last few days in the area. We made some friends, saw some crazy animals (some of them being the aforementioned new friends) and were awestruck by the beauty that surrounded us.
It was hard to give the van up yesterday, but we are flying North to the Whittsunday Coast today…off to the next leg of the adventure.
Oh yeah….somehow the hubcap fell off and we were charged $60 by the rental company! Maybe the laughs were worth it.
I’m sitting on the deck enjoying the heat and the noises of very tropical-sounding birds. Somehow the five hours of sleep I’ve had in the last fifty-odd hours is sustaining me. I think I may be surviving on the excitement and novelty of being somewhere new. It’s so warm!! I can see a wild baby turkey as I write this.
The flight over was a pleasant surprise. I have never been upgraded before, but if I only have the one shot at improved airline comfort, the 14.5 hour flight to Auckland was the prize to land. I was moved from an isle seat at the back of the plane to a “premiere economy” seat against the bulkhead at the front of the aircraft. SO much leg-room!! The food was good too – prawns and such, cheese, port…champagne to start. Fantastic. Thank you, Air New Zealand – really it was quite the experience and I feel a guilty indulgence at having traveled like a rock star…or at least a Canadian rock star…
Upon arriving in Brisbane, my good friend Alice welcomed me. There’s nothing better than having someone you love meet you at the airport! It’s been seven years since we’ve seen each other, but Alice has had a way of being around during pinnacle moments in my life. We first lived together in Edinburgh, ten years ago. Alice was the only ‘local’ who lived in the flat with us and we became fast friends. We traveled a bit through the area surrounding the city and endured one of the most disastrous camping trips I’ve ever been through. It was an ordeal – but we laughed the entire time.
Years later, Kevin and I took our first trip abroad together and Alice’s house was one of our stopping points. I got to show him my former playing ground, and Alice and Kevin had a chance to get to know each other. That was the trip Kevin proposed to me on – Alice was in on the surprise. Very devious!
Our last meeting was later that same year when she came to Victoria to visit us. Since then we have been keeping in touch intermittently. Coincidently, Alice wrote an invite for me to come visit anytime, just a day after the tickets to Australia had been booked. “Oh that would be great – you’ll never guess – I AM coming to Australia …where exactly do you live?” Aha- Brisbane, wow that’s where I’m flying in!
So we trekked through the city, making our way to her place – a beautiful little flat in a nook off of a cul-de-sac. Up on a hill, we can see the city through the leaves of the frangipani. It’s so green. It’s warm, and the bag is heavy, and the jeans are exchanged for a skirt, and the beer is cracked. Ahhhh…..
Friends come over and we chat and have some food and soon enough it’s time to head to the West End… We’re going to see the Chocolate Strings, a very fun and talented local band, at a pub called Lock n’ Load. The West End is a super-casual, café-culture area in a small strip just south west of the Central Business District. Live music plays at a few different venues and the atmosphere is busy but relaxed. The bar is packed and the music is just great. The band has actually outgrown the venue and people are dancing on the sidewalk outside. What a rad first night.
We get home in the early hours of morn’ and, after struggling with the math, I realize I’ve been up for exactly 48 hours. Sleep comes easy. I am so happy to be here.
Theme Songs for the Day:
The day was good. Although it would have been just fine to hang out in the yard and work on Alice’s friend’s bike, we actually managed to walk into town and maintain some amount of productivity. We walked for hours – I saw just how ‘interesting’ Brisbane is…it’s not necessarily the prettiest of cities, although there are some little gems. Alice explained that Brisbane had a huge developmental boom in the late 80’s. It so happens that the city held Expo ’88 (yes, they were the city that followed Vancouver). “Queensland shows the worls: Regionalism and Modernity.” The massive amounts of concrete are a testament to this era.
Slurpees were our main form of sustenance as we made our way over the Goodwill Bridge, through the Botanic Gardens… we walked down through the main shopping area and, as it was Saturday, it was jam-packed. It had started out cloudy but was pure sunshine within the hour.
We walked down to the man-made beach that sits beside Brisbane River in the South Bank area. It’s a little weird that chlorinated water sits on the graduated sand ‘beach’ – but all the people that swarmed the area seemed happy. It’s like a big water park for the whole family.
As we strolled the market we realized how terribly tired we really were. Movies were in order…and popcorn (it’s just SO good – top five foods for sure). A successful day. Tomorrow – the beach.
Another theme song for the evening:
Burn One Down – Ben Harper, from the album Fight For Your Mind