I’m writing this blog post, sitting on the veranda of Lewis and Emily’s gorgeous house in Sydney (we made it!) But as I have been incredibly lax at blog keeping, when I last left us we weren’t even in Brisbane yet…

We spent our last day at sea relaxing as we suspected (as it turned out correctly) that we might have a full on schedule when we got to Brisbane! We had breakfast with Jill and Russell who also snuck us into the Concierge Club so we could see how the suite holders lived (luxuriously!) before going to the theatre to listen to a Captain (and Crew) Q&A which was really interesting, if somewhat disappointing that Jimi was proved correct and the water in the swimming pools DOES come from the sea…

We spent some time on deck having a BBQ lunch, and Jimi astoundingly won us a bottle of champagne with a brilliant first throw on ‘hoopla the champagne’! We had a lazy afternoon playing some more rummy, before we had to go back to the room to pack ahead of dinner. Despite barely buying anything except shampoo, our luggage seemed to have grown in size, so packing was NO FUN AT ALL. Our last dinner was lovely though, and we shared the champagne with the table! We had a relatively early night as we docked early into Brisbane the following morning.

We were early enough to have a last breakfast in the restaurant, before meeting up with Yvonne and Kev to exit the ship. We were reunited with our luggage and with help from a port worker got ourselves to the car park and waved our goodbyes to our new friends! It was super hot out already, so we suncreamed as we waited for Hazel and Mark who were luckily only a few minutes as they live really close to the port. It was SO lovely to see them both again, and after a fun game of ‘cram the luggage in the Jeep’ we were ready to explore Brisbane.

Mark is probably the best tour guide in the world bar none, so we started with a drive round Brisbane to get our bearings and to see some of the city’s scenic vantage points. (You have to pay attention though, as there are questions along the way!) When we got back to the house, we gave Jimi the tour (I vaguely remembered the layout, though not as well as I should have!) and then we had a lazy first day, mainly sitting outside on the veranda in the shade. We had lunch and went shopping for some alcohol in the afternoon, before showering and dinner.

On Day 2 we were up bright and early to day-trip to North Stradbroke Island (or ‘Straddy’ as the locals call it). We got a car ferry across to the island, which was just stunning – really picturesque. 

After a coffee break in one of the prettiest coffee shops I’ve ever seen (with views out over the ocean), Mark gave us a tour of the island, taking us to Point Lookout (which is actually where his Great-Grandfather first arrived in Australia). The highlight of the morning had to be seeing both wild kangaroo AND koalas – Hazel has eagle eyes for the latter, who were sleeping in two eucalyptus trees. 

Another highlight, though possibly not for Mark, was when we took the Jeep on the beach and got ‘bogged’ (Aussie for ‘stuck’). We had to all get out and dig, which was fun, though particularly amusing was when we were off the beach and I was able to identify the problem by reading the instructions on the screen of the dashboard (damn you technology for unnecessarily complicating everything!) There was a glorious moment though where it looked like I knew what I was talking about all on my own, which I will savour always.

We had a swim in the surf at Cylinder Beach before fish-and-chip lunch overlooking the ocean at the surf club. Weird to think that it is the same water as when we are in California – had a moment of thinking the world is so small. 

After lunch we went for a walk around Point Lookout and had another wildlife spot – turtles which we could see in the sea below. It was just the most stunning scenery – see pictures below!

We had a last scenic stop at Brown Lake (a freshwater lake, so called because the tannins in the water mean it is a murky tea colour) before catching the ferry back to Brisbane.

Then that evening Hazel and I crashed the boys’ weekly neighbourhood drinks (in the ultimate pub shed – a pool house with bar which Jimi is now threatening to make for us one day…) before dinner and bed!

On Day 3 Jimi and I began some of the (many) life admin tasks required when you move to a new country, starting with opening our Australian bank accounts in the city centre. Hazel dropped us off in the city, and we visited the Commonwealth Bank for about an hour, before having a wander to the shops. I found a nail bar, and Jimi had a mooch before we went to lunch at a lovely restaurant, aptly named Jimmy’s on the Mall. We sat upstairs on their terrace looking out on the shopping street.

Once we’d eaten we got our tourist on, following a map/trail of historic site of importance around the city centre. It was really interesting to see so many of the old buildings, even if by London standards they weren’t particularly old at all. Hazel came and picked us up around 4pm as there was a storm rolling in (in Australia they can get sudden hailstorms so big that the hail dents your car, so you don’t want to get stuck out in one of those…) and we spent the rest of the evening at the house.

The following day was another excurision – this time to the Gold Coast, which is a city in itself about an hour’s drive south of Brisbane. It’s very busy and touristy (think Miami) and famous for Surfer’s Paradise – lots of beaches very popular with surfers! We had a drive down the main strip, before stopping at Q1 – a huge skyscraper with amazing 360 degree views out across the sea and the city. It’s very surreal to be so high and not in a city centre like London or New York, but absolutely stunning nonetheless.

We drove up to Burleigh Heights to take some photos – just the most stunning vista with the rocks and the beach, as well as the city skyline in silhouette along the coast before going for lunch in another surf club. I could get very used to the Australian diet of fish and chips – what’s not to like?

We headed back to Brisbane in the afternoon and had a lazy evening, but with an early wake up the following morning. I left Jimi in bed and went with Hazel to a local outdoor swimming pool for a swim – it’s a private 25m pool, set in gardens with seating and BBQs etc. Hazel and I were the only ones in the pool, though as I was doing my lengths some small birds were swooping along and splashing in the water!

We headed back to the house after that for brunch, before we packed up our bags and the car to head to the beach. Hazel and Mark have a unit (flat) on the Sunshine Coast which is an hour north of Sydney, but we also needed to stop on the way to take the VW Kombi for a service. The boys went in the Kombi van and Hazel and I followed in the Jeep, heading to the mechanic’s house. He lives in the middle of a forest (literally, we went down a dirt road to get there) and now renovates and services vintage VW Beetles and Kombis. The yard looked like a graveyard for old VWs, and also the kind of place where creepy crawlies and snakes would THRIVE. I touched nothing. It was very cool to have a look around though, and Jimi and I found ourselves sorely tempted at the idea of getting a restored VW Beetle – $6,000 for the car, $30,000 for the renovation as the finished cars were just incredible. If only we had a spare $36,000…

We drove directly to Moffat Beach and the beach house after that, and spent some time unpacking our stuff and making the beds etc. Because it is right by the sea (the back of the unit looks out right over the beach and the water) it gets quite stuffy and salty even when it’s only left for a week or two – we found a poor dried out gecko on the floor in our bedroom. Jimi washed all the windows while we pottered around, and then we went to the supermarket with Hazel. 

We had a walk down to the beach when we got back, before changing for a dinner at the local surf club. We met up with Brad, one of Hazel and Mark’s friends, who sails the tender boats for the cargo and cruise ships – he was delighted that he was not working on our boat going in or out as apparently it’s very boring!

The next day we were up exceptionally early (even for us!) at 5.30am to drive up the coast to Double Island Point. It was about an hour away, and we had breakfast in Tewantin just outside of Noosa, at a very hipster café. Jimi had by this point completely adjusted to the coffee culture of Australia, so had a massive coffee, while I debated whether it was too early for a Diet Coke (answer: it is NEVER too early for a Diet Coke. I bloody love Diet Coke.) We then got a very old-school ferry (almost a barge) across a small crossing not much bigger than a ford, into Noosa. It was very rural and picturesque, and we basically drove straight onto the beach, which we then drove up for about 20km. It was crazy to have a completely deserted beach, then with cars whizzing by – when we hopped out we had to be careful not to get run over.

We stopped to have a go at sea fishing, which firstly required us to collect some pippies as bait – small shellfish that had buried themselves in the sand along the shoreline. Then Mark set up the rods and we had a go – technically I was the only one to catch a fish (a dart!) but given that my only input was reeling it in once it was already on the line, I’m not sure that I can claim much credit. We drove on a bit more and Jimi and I both had a go behind the wheel of the Jeep without managing to get it stuck in the sand – result!

As we got towards Double Island Point, we spotted hundreds of tiny soldier crabs running across the sand – we jumped out for a photo (or in Jimi’s case to chase them) but whenever you get close they just bury themselves in the sand. We did manage to grab a couple though – they are tiny and spidery and scuttle along at quite the pace!

We parked up right at the tip of the peninsula and then set off into the surf to try our hand at the greatest Australian sport of all: surfing. As expected, I was not good! I have basically zero upper body strength and/or balance which is pretty much a basic requirement, but Jimi was really good! We started off practising on the paddle board to get a feel for the waves, but Jimi soon graduated to an actual surf board which he managed to get up on! Very impressive.

I had a paddle around then Hazel and I went back to the car to sunbathe/watch. When the boys came out the water we had a picnic lunch on the beach of roast chicken rolls, before we had to head off as the tide was starting to come in.

We drove back to the beach house for a lazy afternoon of showering and then a delicious dinner of garlic prawns. We went to bed, happy and full, with our defenses down when BAM – our first run in with Australian wildlife occurred. A giant cockroach!! RUNNING OVER MY SHOES. I stayed (relatively) calm, considering it was ENORMOUS (a bush cockroach apparently, imagine a beast about 6 or 7cm long….) and Jimi immediately stepped up to the challenge of killing it. However as I did not want squashed cockroach over my stuff/ the cream carpet we had to operate a catch and release system which went fairly well. I mean, it went in the wardrobe and then up the wall so it was not the most efficient catch ever, but we got there in the end. We managed to get it outside and Jimi was very brave until he released it and it hissed at him – then he moved PRETTY quickly back inside. But we survived it! And it wasn’t a spider! So overall, success. Much congratulations all round.

On on that exciting note I will sign off, as this has got super long. Brisbane Part 2 to follow soon!


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