Fiji and Australia 2008Author: LSKahn (More Trip Reviews by LSKahn)
Date of Trip: July 2008
Soon it was time to move on to Brisbane. I made a Greyhound Bus reservation and took the bus to Brisbane arriving at the Central Station there. I then took a taxi to the house in Red Hill. It was the only taxi I took on the entire trip, I think. The apartment in Brisbane was basic and the computer, which I think had a dial up internet connection, had something wrong with the modem. I ended up going to the State Library of Queensland periodically to commune with the internet. It was annoying but not an insuperable obstacle.
It took me awhile to learn my way around Brisbane but I ended up liking it very much. I visited all the museums in the QPAC/Museum complex along the Brisbane River and saw "The Mikado" and "Traveling North" there. The latter is a play about retired Australians (in the US it would be "translated" as "Traveling South" to the warmer weather). Elsewhere I saw a play called "The Narcissist" about Australian politics and a comedy thing involving breasts (sort of the female version of "Puppetry of the Penis" if you have seen that) called "Busting Out" which was absolutely hilarious even if I did not get all the jokes. I find that theater is a window into the local culture and always try and experience it (with or without the jokes) on vacations.
Brisbane is Australia's most rapidly growing city and, I feel, eventually will be the largest city. There are very few older buildings left and plenty of skyscrapers--which I thought was a shame. While I was there the "EKKA" was going on and I did attend that but I have to say that it was not riveting. The "EKKA" is a sort of county fair full of cattle judging, etc. In Brisbane they say "The country comes to the city". It was interesting to see once but I wouldn't go out of my way to do it again; I did have 2 of the famous strawberry ice creams which were great.
I did a lot of driving around while in Brisbane as well. I have to say I was immensely assisted in my driving by a GPS that Marilyn and John loaned me when I arrived in Kawana Waters. Those devices have a downside: You never really learn the lay of the land and where you are going or where you have been. "You have arrived at your destination" is all you know. On the upside, you don't get lost (although some of the directions can be crazy) and the device does not get angry with you for making a wrong turn.
I have to say I found the Gold Coast a really bad version of Florida (even more over development in Australia than in Florida). However, it is dearly loved by many Aussies and New Zealanders so who am I to judge? It is where you go for amusement parks. They even have an Aussie version of Universal Studios. I did not go to any of the amusement parks because I am, thankfully, post kids. I did go to the Australian Outback Spectacular. The concept for that one was borrowed from Disney's Buffalo Bill Wild West Show and adapted for the Australian market. I enjoyed it. The food was OK but the show was really a lot of fun. So it's for tourists? Well, I was a tourist. . . .
I did my share of zoos in Brisbane and the Gold Coast (Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, Currumbin, etc.). One of those places is all you need to see. They all offer koala petting and koala photo opportunities. I did not have my photo taken with a koala. I thought that thing was totally over done in Australia but, well, tourists want it, so there you go! If you have seen one koala/kangaroo, you have seen them all--honest.
I found the birds and the plants in Australia amazing. The ambient bird sound in the background is different and the lorikeets have to be seen to be believed (bright red, green and blue). I knew nothing about these and wished I had time to explore them in more depth.
From Brisbane I traveled south to Leamington National Park (Yes, I drove the road up to O'Reilly's and did the treetop walk) and along the coast to Byron Bay (great views). Since I was driving borrowed cars, I was very careful about winery stops (only one a day and lots of spitting). I had a very nice lunch at the Thumm winery.
I did ride the catamaran up and down the Brisbane River for sightseeing and for transport. One Sunday I went to a concert at the old Customs House in the Central Business District. I had a lovely lunch at the restaurant there. I also ate at a variety of unmemorable restaurants along the river and in downtown Brisbane.
SOME LIKES AND DISLIKES
OK. Here are some things I did not like about Australia: All the gambling. It is all over. The slots are called "pokies". I never bothered with them because I consider that an entire waste of money. I now understand, however, why Australian tourists to North America tend to go to Las Vegas. Unbelievable! Gambling addiction has to be a huge problem there. Maybe it is because people are all spread out over a vast territory and cultural life can be lacking because there are not the numbers to sustain it. When I say spread out, I mean it. It is nothing like the Southwest of the US. There can be thousands of kilometers between cities. Even in 6 weeks, I visited such a small area and I drove about 3,000-3,200 miles there. Huge!
The other thing I disliked were the rude drivers. Take a wrong turn and someone is immediately rolling down his window and yelling obscenities at you (every second word beginning with the letter "f"). OK, I was driving a locally registered car and people therefore thought I was a local, but where does that behavior get you?
The thing I liked best were the open warm hearted Australian people. When I left to go to the Brisbane Airport to fly to New Zealand, some neighbors took me to the Central Station to get the train to the airport. I did not ask. They offered. Would that happen in the US? Probably not. So, aside from the rude drivers, the rest of the people I ran into were basically, well, nice. In the last analysis, on any trip, those encounters are what is going to stay with you.
Due to the length of this trip report, the New Zealand bit will be separately posted. Next part: New Zealand's North Island
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