A Travellerspoint blog

April 2015

Brisbane to the Sunshine Coast on a budget

I'm afraid I got a bit behind with my blogs because this has been such a busy week. It started with a trip to the Southside to an antique warehouse where I spent a very pleasant hour and managed to pick up a token, but very appropriate, birthday gift for my opera loving neighbour John. I also found a copy of 'The Ultimate Book of Doing Up Old Junk' which I shall study in depth. It might enable me to start a joint enterprise with my friend Denise when I get back to the UK although she is already so brilliant at stuff like this that she probably had a hand in writing it. I had my retired lady neighbour on the other side in for pasta and wine that night and went to bed very content with my day.
On Wednesday I headed North to visit the Sunshine Coast. This involved a train to Nambour and a bus to Noosa, the popular holiday destination at the top of the Sunshine Coast. 885DFE0ACED375D34CB7CC0A9DA3A762.jpg885D44C79A6956969250FBC4964FDECE.jpgThe bus goes through Eumundi, which is famous for it's markets held on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday mornings, and there is a bus stop right across the road from them so it is very easy to get off and have a wander round and then get on the following bus one hour later. The markets are sold as a tourist attraction and are consequently packed with people as are all the cafes and restaurants in the town which seem to exist pretty much to service the market goers. When I came back through there later in the day the area that had been a hive of activity in the morning had that 'after party' air when everyone has gone home.
As it nears it's destination at Noosa Heads the road runs alongside the Noosa River through Noosaville, mostly restaurants with a few boutiques, into the little town of Noosa itself and then out to Noosa Heads. Noosa Heads has a beautiful beach which backs onto the national park and is a perfect place for camping although there is plenty of alternative accommodation for those who don't like to be under nylon. The whole area is absolutely stunning.
I had a walk around Noosa town and then caught a local bus back to Noosaville for a walk by the side of the river and then another on to the small historic town of Tewantin which was the original settlement in the region and was established in 1871. 88872173A2A1FEAB6629C079541C638B.jpg8885CA96AB954C007DC7FCF04079806F.jpg89A2D0619E4397211642A64E471AD970.jpgThe Noosa Ferry Cruise Company operates between Tewantin and Noosa Heads and stops at seven points along the route. They sell tickets onboard and you can buy a day pass that allows you to join and leave whenever you like. Unfortunately I didn't have time to make the most of this and I caught the bus back from Tewantin to Nambour for my return train.
Seeing Noosa is not seeing the entire Sunshine Coast and I realised that with a bit of planning I could get a train to the southern end, bus my way up the coast and then get the train back from Nambour again at the northern end. So for those readers who might be interested in a day trip up the Sunshine Coat from Brisbane for around $50 USING A GO CARD (travelling off peak would be about $10 less) here is what to do: Train from Brisbane CBD to Landsborough, 605 bus from Landsborough to Caloundra Station, 600 bus from Caloundra to Maroochydore Station, 620 bus from Maroochydore to Noosa Heads, 631 bus from Noosa Heads to Nambour, train back to Brisbane. This might appear to be a real chore but it is actually very simple. The bus at either end is timetabled to meet the train (631 and Nambour/Brisbane train run once an hour) and all the local buses run within minutes of each other from the same stop. They do not run immediately next to the beach for the entire journey but the road is mostly only one block back and, because they are local buses, and run frequently, you can get off and back on wherever you like. The cheapest tour bus that I could find from Brisbane to Noosa cost twice as much and you are at the mercy of the scheduled stops and timetable. Of course you could do it the other way around starting from Nambour and heading south. For any travel arrangements within SE Queensland go to the online Translink Journey Planner. It is totally comprehensive giving train/bus times and numbers, where to change which platform/bus stop to go to and how much it will cost you. I wish we had something as good as this in the UK.
So that was my Friday. I got off the bus for a wander round at Maloolaba which reminded me very much of the Florida gulf coast complete with wharf shopping/eating experience similar to Johns Pass at Madeira Beach. 89D9CAACD048997101C9CB333EA17448.jpg89DAE80A0CE973DA9675BDEB81931011.jpg89D8AF829C2B70C0BF44E10E7553BD97.jpg89DC72EFF917B9A4D32BC649F03EE421.jpg I also got off at Maroochydore which has a lovely beach and the Maroochy River with a range of watersport activities to enjoy. The whole journey was painless and relaxing and, for me at least, eminently preferable to being on a coach that stops at pre-chosen eateries and retail opportunities.
On Thursday afternoon I visited the 75 acre Historical Village at Caboulture about 30mins north by train. The village has a free shuttle bus and if you 'phone them and let them know what time your train is arriving they will meet it and then drop you back at the station when you are ready to leave. The village has more than 70 original buildings including a settlers house, incredibly basic but surprisingly homely inside, 88C8D9AAFB05323AD62B1417A428E7AD.jpgchurch, masonic lodge, schoolhouse and hospital. Many of the buildings have been furnished as they woud have been when in use and there are thousands of other, fascinating exhibits from old radios, televisions, sewing machines, cameras etc to farm machinery cars and engines. It really is worth going to and on certain days they have volunteers in costume although I suspect these would be really busy. Apparently there were a group of 130 schoolchildren there at the same time as me but I didn't really see them and for the most part I had the place to myself. All the staff are volunteers and all are very friendly and willing to help with any questions.
I wont bore you with the very many photo's I took but just to give you a flavour 88C5745ABCB82460E21A291B40D378D1.jpg88CD0463E12F52CA26D3E4EBB9CD3399.jpgand then this is the hospital, 88C7250CE3689239717BBFEDCE5A6C78.jpgbuilt as a house in 1900 and converted in 1920. This picture is for my sister 88CA1B0BA24132EE41F20FBA1BBB844E.jpgthis one is for my dentist friends 88CB3AFDA6BB31048B1B258A39FAC7D4.jpg and this one is for my friend Jacqui 88CE77119465E9605A1F7FDD065884FE.jpg
I ended my week at a party given for John by his daughter and talked with some interesting people including a lady originally from Jamaica who had lived in Wolverhampton for years and ended in Brisbane via five years in Papua New Guinea.
Tomorrow I am preparing a Birthday lunch for John and his wife Sony and already have plans for the rest of the week including a train/bus trip south to the Gold Coast.

Posted by busyboots 22:17 Comments (0)

What's not to like about Brisbane?

Well I bought an Explorer city bus tour but, honestly, it was a waste of money. Everywhere you want to go and see in Brisbane centres around the river and is easily accessible by walking if you are reasonably fit. 52D4B06AD559D785E876752A00474558.jpgThe Explorer tour takes you out of the city centre in a big loop for no good reason that I could see except to extend the ride and at $35 for an adult ticket it is not good value. My top tips for travelling anywhere in SE Queensland are to 1) buy a go card (available at all 7-11s and lots of newsagents) and 2) travel by public transport whenever you can. The transport links are fantastic and the go card is accepted on all buses, trains and ferries with a simple tap-on, tap-off. It will also charge fares at around 30% less than a paper ticket and if you travel etween 8.30am and 3.30pm fares are even cheaper.
One interesting thing we did learn from the tour bus commentary was when we stopped under some beautiful sail canopies for a few minutes and were informed that they had not been installed to provide shade, as it appeared, but to catch the windows from the buiding they were attached to. It seems these keep 'popping out', some from as high as the 19th floor, so they are actually a safety measure.
The tour finished too late for me to join the Information Centre guided walk but, armed with the map they provided, I made my own way around the city. 52D18D6199AD7307C37DF7A39BEDC8B4.jpgI don't know what I expected from Brisbane but it has impressed me on so many levels. It is easy to get around, ALL the people I have encountered have been friendly and it feels like a city that has been created for the prople who live in it. There is a big 'cafe culture' and at all times of the day you will see 'suits' having meetings over coffee or a meal and although there is energy here it is not the frenetic atmosphere of, say, Sydney. Of course it is a much smaller city but there is definitely a different mind set among the people who have time for each other and for strangers.
I got off the bus at the Anzac Square war memorial with it's lovely garden 53440681DD6F542AA38F67C25D627B79.jpg5345999DF4414D9CDDA4CBD50D0D238F.jpgand walked back to St Stephens Cathedral 5347756AE35CFA6B5548034F5332547A.jpg5348E91E9B046B11EBA7677EB08A44FF.jpgand then down to the river and through the Botanic Gardens 546913530830079AD05AB4F176282311.jpg and on over Goodwill Bridge to the South Bank. The South Bank is amazing and has been developed with families and entertainment in mind. There are plenty of restaurants and cool garden areas to sit away from the sun 546AF966E15E08A6B622E934DFB52211.jpgand there is a man-made beach actually on the embankment and lots of water slides and play areas for children. 53800AB7E91BE8648F55105610AC9D56.jpg538209E6DD85075E06A25543F6CA0FBD.jpg53844C0FBD44C2F5F7928B9E45E24B95.jpg On Friday evenings there is a 'Twilight Market' from 5pm-7pm within this area and there are an enormous variety of different food stalls and styles to choose from. Actually these 'Twighlight Markets' occur in many of the suburbs as well as the normal Saturday/Sunday markets that take place around the area.
There are also music venues everywhere, quite apart from the theatres of the Performing Arts Centre (and there are five of those) and it is easy to find something going on pretty much wherever you are particularly at the weekends and a lot in the open air. I atended two free lunch time recitals by a gifted young English organist in the City Hall and if you have an opportunity to attend any of his performances definitely take it. 52D2F32E0E42AB2B6515F416C93441C8.jpgHe can make the organ sound like an orchestra. During 'Baroque Week' the Hall also played host to a series of free early evening concerts by different artists and later evening concerts billed as 'Five for $5'. Before I came to Brisbane someone had commented to me that it was a city lacking in art and culture but that has definitely not been my experience.
The third floor of City Hall is given over to the city museum and there a is a permanent display of the history of the River, and , ergo, the history of the city, including many historic photographs. There was also a quite magnificent exhibition of 'Costumes of the Golden Age of Hollywood'. This exhibition features over 70 original costumes, plus accessories, props, photographs and sketches from films between 1920s and the 1960s. It runs until May 25th and it is FREE as were the other exhibitions in the museum. I was able to join a small group tour up into the clock toweer by way of Australia's oldest manually operated lift but whilst there were some fine views of the surrounding buildings you are not able to see the river or any extended distance. 52CEC628E1076F77C8E094D846F6506C.jpg52CD0827B3AB094089D4D846549DAAF7.jpg Again this is a free tour that departs every 15 minutes but it gets booked very early in the morning and is not, in my opinion, worth waiting around for several hours to do. Fortunately, because I was going to the recital downstairs it was not an issue for me.
The best way to see the city is from the river and the City Cats criss cross it to some of the furthest Precincts. I got on this one afternoon and went for quite a distance down river then got off at one of the stops and caught the City Cat that was going back. It's a heck of a lot cheaper than a river tour and allows some magnificent views of the city plus it's always great to be out on the water especially when it's hot.
On another day I caught the bus in to the Cultural Centre and walked along the South Bank to the Maritime Museum and then on along the cliff boardwalk to the 110 steps leading up to the lookout at Kangaroo Point. This walk only took about thirty minutes and if you can manage the steps it is well worth it. 53864CF3BEDD1A8F4F9C98C94ACAF7F1.jpg There is a cafe at the top that will feed you anything from coffee to a fully cooked meal (including breakfast) for a very reasonabe price and all while you are sitting at outdoor tables with stunning views of the river and city. 540D7643B9B0AD0F257F073E3B4D18B4.jpg540EE547D5D4162C0051A71AF024EA38.jpg Back at the bottom of the cliff I carried on along the boardwalk to 'Riverlife' a business that sells all kinds of activities including day and night kayaking, stand up paddle boarding (also day and night) rock climbing and abseiling (no I wasn't tempted). I had a coffee on their river side boarded balcony and spent some time chatting to one of the young ladies working there. I had read that the Brisbane river is 'teeming' with bull sharks and that you shouldn't swim in it particularly as it is very silty and completely opaque. I mentioned this to her and asked how this worked especially as they offer paddle boarding to beginners. She explained that the big sharks are further down river closer to it's mouth and that most of those caught around there were ONLY 80cms or so in length. She also said that they didn't like the sound of boat engines and that because of there being so much activity on the river they tended to stay away. Apparently she has fallen in the river about 50 times and has never had a problem. Whilst I certainly don't know enough to argue with any of this I would not be prepared to try it myself.
The City Cat did not call at the wharf nearest to me but where this is the case a City Ferry boat takes passengers across the river to the side that the Cat does stop on so I caught this across to Riverside Quay, where there are myriad restaurants of varied cuisine and expense, 5410AEA807A29B0E3900BC3B36FE5B0C.jpg and then walked back through the Botanic Gardens to have a look round Old Government House. 53BEA6F4F54068C6BDA7CEC898477767.jpg This is a beautiful National Trust listed building that was erected for the first governer of the colony and there is a good exhibition about the it's history and it's first few governers.
The Commisariat Store on William Street was built by convicts in 1828/9 5387F88FB5FF863D9041C34A7842D45E.jpg and has lots of information about the original penal colony and what life was like in it. There is also some (but not a lot of) information about the indigenous people who inhabited this area and, according to Wikipedia between 35% and 39% of the total Australian Aboriginal population lived in Queensland pre Western contact beacause the region was such a good source of food. I must say that two things that are conspicuously absent from this area are 1) the signs on or outside pubic buidings, notable in other cities in Australia, acknowledging the Aboriginal tribe that originally inhabited the land and 2) aboriginal faces but that is not a debate I want to get into here.
On a lighter note, and for those whose lives are not complete without retail therapy, there are acres of opportunities to spend your money ranging from the pavement level stores, and every designer of note is represented here, to the multi story malls hidden within one small entrance. The beautiful Brisbane Arcade 52CB549DF2D88C8DF585D7D51668C4FE.jpg is a heritage example but it's shops are not for the faint hearted or those with less loaded bank accounts.
I will have more time to spend in this city before I fly back to Sydney and it will defiitely include another trip on the river but perhaps this time in the opposite direction. Meanwhile the latest offering from MX 52D00417976FA09015619A204DF60B04.jpg

Posted by busyboots 21:40 Comments (0)

Queensland - that other Sunshine State

Well here I am at the end of my second week at my second house sit and all is well. I am staying in a very comfortable modern bungalow on a complex 9.5 miles from the centre of Brisbane and looking after two beautiful animals. 532DC5B4C33068446E811A2EF9842263.jpg5330DBE0AF03744CB92CF4A052E67FF4.jpg5328EF499A98115CE4E8BA20016C08A5.jpgTashi, Tibetan Terrier, incredibly well behaved and obedient and Muffin, Siamese/Burmese, very vocal and does what all cats seem to do best, rule the roost! They normally sleep on their owner's bed and let themselves out/in during the night through the cat flap and, in a spirit of empathy towards them, I left my bedroom door open. Those of you who know me well will appreciate how much this cost me because I ABSOLUTELY HATE animals on beds. Nonetheless I felt sorry for them so....this lasted for three sleepless nights while the cat was on/off/on and meowing relentlessly as soon as dawn broke and it wanted breakfast. After the third night I discovered they had actually both spent most of the night on the sofa so from then on my door has been closed and I have slept like a baby.
That first week brought the edge of a tropical storm and three nights of monsoon showers (we didn't get much during the days surprisingly) the noise was incredible, the dog was terrified and the bull frogs were having parties. If you have never heard a bullfrog think barking seal and yes it really is as loud as that. The little creek turned into a lake and the bridge we use to cross over it was submerged. After the waters subsided you could see from the debris line on the railings just how high the water had been and I would say it must have risen by at least 3.5 metres above it's usual level. 532C877EBE17623ED96B4F2D5A3A7598.jpg532FD2370C16D6667C746157F2EBD42D.jpgSuffice it to say that I was a bit bleary eyed for most of that first week and didn't do much more than explore the local area and settle into the rhythm of life in one of the 'burbs' of Brisbane.
The area is quite densely populated and the, mostly bungalows, are close together, so that having a private conversation in your garden would probably be difficult, this surprised me given that the climate lends itself to an outdoor way of life. There are also a lot of new builds going up but considering how close this is to the city centre it is amazingly cheap. Compared with the area that T&B are looking in I would say the same size property here would be about 30% of the price they will expect to pay but Sydney prices are way ahead of the rest of the country and have risen by 13.7% in the last year which is almost double that of Melbourne, the next highest at 7.4%.
This complex has a shared swimming pool, that no one except me seems to use, and this property has school playing fields at the back and is situated near the end of a cul-de-sac where a secure gate leads onto woodland and a cycle path/walkway that winds for several kilometres in various directions. 532A71CCEA49C1943850BA9235C7D2EE.jpg5332226BB5CAC8D18B62C987E813FDFF.jpg
It is very easy for Tashi and me to enjoy a couple of hour long walks each day without going anywhere near a road and the woodland is teeming with wonderful bird life. We regularly encounter white ibis, grey and white herons, beautifully coloured parakeets and, of course, the ubiquitous kookaburras. This afternoon Tashi managed to 'put up' two galahs, a wild turkey and a duck whilst taking a drink in the waterway next to the path. We are also meeting lots of other friendly dog walkers, and, in the mornings, an elderly Chinese couple doing Tai Chi and another elderly Chinese lady who promenades the length of the path covered up against the sun and followed at a short distance by a portly Chinese gentleman who invariably looks uncomfortable in the heat and always carries an umbrella (?). It's difficult to tell whether they are together or not perhaps he is her bodyguard. There is also a man who feeds organic raw meat to a kookaburra that comes to perch on his fence each afternoon and who is allowed to stroke it, cautiously I'm sure, their beaks look lethal.
My body/blood has obviously not yet become acclimatised because I seem to be providing the local bugs with nutritious snacks from time to time and I'm going through rather a lot of white vinegar. The upside is that at $1.10 for 2 litres, it is a fraction of the price of pharmaceuticalproducts and it seems to be just as effective. You get used to the smell after a while.
I don't have the use of a car at this house sit but that is not an issue as there are supermarkets a ten minute walk away and a frequent bus service that runs into the city. There is also a train station just 1.5 mile walk and I plan to use that to visit the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast next week. I took the bus into the city last Wednesday and my first impressions of Brisbane were good. It feels very 'user friendly'. The bus runs underneath the city on a dedicated bus road and there is a stop that allows you to emerge right on the edge of the pedestrian shopping mall with it's high end designer shops, lots of cafes and a square in which a host of free events are put on. The last city stop is just across the river in the 'Cultural Mall' and is literally between the science museum, library and main art galleries on one side and the performing arts centre, with several different theatres, on the other. 53DA19FAF5AD9C5199E2D8423DCDD77D.jpg53D8647FB8EB102CE1A62488FA477D74.jpg 53DC0C6099DE916BBF01833700B27A41.jpg53DD36C0B4DD9A4C8E53090859273872.jpg
I spent a totally self indulgent four and a half hours between the Museum of Modern art and the Queensland Art Gallery and just for once preferred the modern art. 549E21C9BDA770B918ECBE84FD6AC57D.jpg549BCC919BBDD09B6344FBC0F77B23CF.jpg54A18DAAF4C58275FF35AB5A5CEDD7CC.jpg54A06CEBF32792014410B3BF1C8CCCFB.jpg549A5907FFBD3C81DA40616ED075B5C3.jpg549CE53CA50E620BE57D0FF4F749F893.jpg5485F637A11A0688EDE3EC4B8D29B221.jpg5484D11BCB77A604B16D41C015FDE42F.jpg54839BE6BD92C34E0B5856D49EEE81BB.jpg5482465FB9C4A7D53BB8FBE7A8171891.jpg547FEB9AEE247C1F1F7049B31330AD79.jpg547EB668CA91108BFEBB595EB4C568D7.jpg5487A3DFC4DBB45ECD3A5A055B6EE435.jpg549901C7B75DC39C056AC9AACCAA4726.jpg5497D8AFCD37C940FB852FD650C2A010.jpg549F6024CE70099319213243A0B0F3BF.jpg (The necklace is made from painted snail shells and yes that last installation is a set of car wash brushes going at different speeds and intermittently) The museums and galleries are all free entry but I paid to experience an exhibition of work by David Lynch and found it very disturbing. It was advertised as 'a rare opportunity to consider ... his practice as an artist, film maker and musician' and I suppose if I had seen anything of his other than 'Twin Peaks' (which, okay, was a bit bizarre) I might have known what to expect. As it was there seemed to be a morbid concentration of naked dismembered female torsos penetrated by giant phalluses, in one form or another, and other things like an animated 'Six Men Getting Sick' and a painting of 'Man Just After Being Shot'. 547D95EEFFCBE980CCC4B3779B6A2C51.jpg Unless you are a real fan I would advise that you give the exhibition a miss should it come to a gallery near you but then I am not an art critic and maybe some people like this kind of stuff???
I had intended to go into the science museum but had forgotten that it is Easter school holidays and the museum, which is holding a dinosaur exhibition, was mobbed so that will be a visit for another day. A short walk across Victoria Bridge, and a great view of the 60 metre tall 'Wheel of Brisbane' (where have I seen that before?) and I was in amongst the farmers market and the designer shops. 53DB1049C325515CF26190B413DF7771.jpg 54176218DCB98C74C36E06C4A248C390.jpgI found the Information Centre and a really helpful assistant spent ages talking to me about what to do/where to go and plied me with an armful of leaflets which have turned out to be incredibly useful. The IC itself runs free walking tours every weekday at 12 o clock from outside the office and there is also a volunteer group called 'Brisbane Greeters' (leaflet from the Information Centre) who are all local people that will tailor a walk through the city, completely free of charge, to suit your particular interest/s.
There is a lot going on in this city, and much of it is free. For my second visit I'm planning a HoHo bus tour, guided walk and ferry ride to experience the city from the water. So much to do and, thankfully, so much time. Fortunately my canine charge is used to being left during the day and the homeowner has encouraged me to get out and about so...happy days!
I was also introduced to some of the neighbours before the owner left and have been invited to a Birthday/Anzak Day party on 25th April so that will be an interesting experience.
I leave you with this article from the free magazine MX (like the Metro mag given out on trains from/to London) I'm not sure that a UK publisher would have got away with this headline but I am finding Australians to be refreshingly plain spoken. 5456FD31C2C2D80087F6EAF514D7050A.jpg

Posted by busyboots 23:06 Comments (1)

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