We arrived into Brisbane early evening after leaving Noosa mid afternoon, it feeling both bizarre and exciting to be driving into a centre after spending so much time in towns and campsites. We had phoned Big Bird in advance and arranged for two spaces for the car and camper and for Tiia and I to have a hostel bed; after many nights in a tent we were in desperate need of a bed and, at 18 dollars each per night, we only paid 1 dollar more than the guys per night (as it 34 dollars for a vehicle). For this price it was in a 16 bed dorm and it was hard to tell which ones were free; this should give you an indication of the quality.
Anyway, we showered, changed, put on make up (for the first time since Singapore!) made dinner and drank a bottle of wine before all 6 of us leaving for the Normanby Hotel – apparently the place to be on this particular evening. It probably took us about 15/20 minutes to walk there and we arrived to what I can best describe as a wooden, multi-floored building with a surrounding outdoor area that was almost like bars within bars, both inside and out, upstairs and down. Various music was being played on each floor and cups of cider were $7.50. I had 4 or 5 ciders in the couple of hours we were there, danced with Tiia, had random conversations with locals (drunken conversations where I am pretty sure we offended the men we spoke to), lost everyone else and then magically all reappeared together in one spot with Umbi being the last to appear just as we said we needed to find him to leave; it was as though we all had a sense of where to be at what time.
Brilliant, spontaneous night but I felt horrendous the next morning and was so grateful to have a bed that I didn’t have to get out of early to dismantle; I made the absolute most of it and laid there until 11am. It was then time for boring domestic duties and I put the laundry on, waited for it to be ready and then put it out at 12:30 for it to start pouring with rain – one of the things I dislike most about travelling Australia compared to Asia is having to be responsible for your own laundry, both in the time it takes and ensuring it is dry.
Anyway, once it was done I decided to head out in the rain anyway – minus umbrella or raincoat – and I walked across the William Jolly bridge (a nice one to walk/jog along that has good views of the CBD) and towards the State library – my feet were swimming in rain puddles this point so I ducked inside to use their great facilities and free wifi; my first experience of how awesome, welcoming and accommodating Australian libraries are. Still raining, I then decided to head into the Art gallery where there was some really cool aboriginal stuff that took me back to my time in the Outback. I then went into the Museum where there was some really insightful and thought-provoking stuff on the tourism and commercialism of aboriginals, both with regards to the sale/display of their artwork and the way in which they are represented through art. All that aside, it was really nice to wander around by myself and have some space where I could get lost in a crowd again; alone but with an activity of focus so I could clear my head.
Continuing in this mindset I then walked along Brisbane’s south bank to Ferry Point 3 to catch the free city hopper along Brisbane River – I went back on myself in the “wrong” direction first as I would have to have stood waiting for it to come back round anyway and decided it would be nice to make more of it, but then eventually went in the direction I was aiming for towards the Botanic Gardens. It was a shame about the drizzly rain but I still sat up top and it was so nice to take in the lovely bridges and diverse landscape of high buildings, sailing boats and greenery.
I hopped off at the stop just north of botanic gardens, walked alongside the river and almost bought a coffee to keep me warm until I realised they add 15% surcharge on public holidays! I wandered through the gardens towards the CBD and popped in to Queen Street Mall with the intention to buy an umbrella, which ended up being the only thing I didn’t purchase (I splashed out on a sleeveless bomber jacket, long socks and a long top; all prep for our return to the cold nights in a tent so totally justified!)
I walked back through the city just after 6pm, it already being dark, and this was the first time I’ve felt a bit vulnerable or wary – I received a comment from a guy sat on the street outside a shop about me being attacked, then a drunken group of men deliberately walked straight into me. It was unfortunate as I have mostly felt really safe in Australia and I loved my day in Brisbane, liking it as a city much more than I thought I would, but I guess you can be vulnerable at any time, any where.
I was still feeling a bit ropey but picked up a bottle of sparkling wine for that evening. I got back to the hostel to shower, change and have dinner before the 6 of us reconvened for drinking games – just as an FYI, it is absolutely impossible to play a game of beer pong with cheap balls, so light that they would literally change direction mid-air, swerving away from its original and intended path. Before we went to bed we said goodbye to Toby and Rasmus as we would be leaving Brisbane the following morning whereas they would be staying another night and be moving more slowly down the rest of the East Coast than us. My history with goodbyes is to detach but I’ve been working on my emotional issues (well, some of them, I haven’t had THAT much time) and genuinely felt really sad that this part was coming to an end, and I would miss them both.
Unfortunately I didn’t manage to get much sleep that night as one Dutch guy felt the need to start chatting on his phone at 1am and then again at 7:30am (I literally do not understand the mentality of some people whom travel, but this is what you are more likely to face in a 16 bed dorm) and we were up early the following morning to check out and load up the campervan.
I then wandered into the CBD to visit the Telstra store and pick up an Australian sim for my time in Sydney where I planned to stay for a few months and work, then I made my way over to the West End; here I discovered cool, tree-lined streets dotted with cafes, street art, vegan restaurants and vintage shops. I popped into one charity shop where you were charged only $5 AUD for a bin liner full of whatever you could fit into it; I filled up one plastic bag with sweater pants and big scarves for the cold weather (which will be redundant soon in Australian summer) and some basic tops for my time settling in Sydney.
I made it back to the camper early afternoon where it was now just Tiia, the Italians and I setting off for our next destination; Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. We managed to get a discount on the ticket by buying it at Chill Hostel (vouchers supplied by Big Bird) and it cost us $29 AUD each instead of $36, passing on paying $49 for a cuddle and a photo with a Koala. We arrived at 3pm and my life was literally made seeing Koalas up close; I have always loved the idea of koalas (animals that get to be free in the trees but basically do nothing other than sleep all day) and I loved them as much as I thought I would. Although I did get extremely jealous watching other people have hugs with the koalas so I paid $18 ($2 less than at Chill hostel, and therefore saving $9 in total) to have a cuddle and a photo; I was surprised by how placid and sleepy they were, and although they are kind of cute they are also quite big and hefty to be cute.
Afterwards we wandered into the Kangaroo feeding area, where you could feed the dozens of kangaroos in the filed but most of them were happily chilling out in the sun or cleaning themselves – the one that struck me the most was one that had a joey in its pouch, which was crazy to see, but I did manage to get a photo imitating a kangaroo as well as a classic kangaroo selfie.
The rest of the time there we wandered around watching wombats, platypus swimming (which is really funny to watch them do with their little feet wading like crazy) birds swarming for feeding time, Tasmanian devils being aggressive with one another (they look like some strange mouse/bear/dog/pig hybrid), and a crocodile (which was disappointingly small and looked half-dead). It was such a good afternoon at a really good price and I got to meet both koalas and kangaroos; standard Australian afternoon.
We left as the Sanctuary shut at 5pm and then drove to a campsite in Beenleigh on our way to the Gold Coast. We now only had one sleeping bag and one blow up mattress between the two of us as Toby had taken his and the night was particularly cold so, using the boot of the car and the poles from the tent we created our own makeshift tent by draping the canvas over the top, and then slept in the camp chairs wearing multiple layers and blankets over the top.
I was literally wearing all the clothes I own and was still freezing, waking up every hour or so with a chill, so at 5:30am I moved my chair outside the “tent” to a spot under the morning sun and dozed there for a couple of hours. Camping has been such a cool way to explore and experience the east coast of oz but I am looking forward to having a normal bed in one place!