DAY 5 – Landing in Australia
Flying over land now – AUSTRALIA! Beautiful, rugged and self-confident landscape. Earthy green with brilliant yellow sun reflecting off the whispy rolling clouds. Heading south towards Rockhampton (aptly named). One hour to go and 515 miles. Some great river systems. If Buzz Aldred (Geography teacher, Oldham Hulme) was here, I’d tell him there was more to Australian geography than sheep farming and artesian wells. So much of the land is unchartered and untamed. Yet warm and habitable, unlike Newfoundland which was like the moon.
7.40 now 9.33! Flight descending through 33,000 feet now. Cloudy in Brisbane (which is evident from above). Ears hurting despite the plugs. Survived without the DVT stockings. A greener land below. Ouch my ears. Through the clouds….and a very smooth landing indeed.
Took taxi to Calesdine Palms Hotel having wizzed through customs and extracted cash and consumed coffee at airport. Unpacked and showered then walked out to explore suburban Brisbane. Found shops and bought drinks and chocolate (ie essentials). Longer walk than anticipated and fell asleep in front of TV, watching Neighbours of course! Australia appears to be a more considered and quality, more British version of America, with wide highways and land to spare. Found some large fir cones lying on the ground – reminded me of stories of 3 ft long Australian worms from my youth! Snake fear conquered, worms to follow (or not!) Motel is one large room with 3 beds, A/c and kitchen area (well stocked and expensive mini-bar). Feet sore from working, I mean walking, and calves aching. Had peanuts for lunch having had 3 meals in about 9 hours previously.
Walked out despite the sore feet. First quite a long trail to find a bottle of wine and a bar of chocolate. Not far from a main road with grassy banks. Strolled down here at a brisk pace! Palm trees dotted around. Found big retail area, but no sign of a good old English ‘corner shop’! Went into a Mobil petrol station and bought a bottle of coke and chocolate. (2 bars for 5 bucks!) and the young guy directed me to a ‘bottle shop’. Further substantial walk. Road very busy but an even pace to life – no sign of frenetic American life. Bought two bottles of SE Australian red, before realising I’d struggle to drink them! (yes, even me!) Bought chicken wrap thing and real chips from Red Roof takeaway but actually not very hungry. Went dark very quickly at 6 ish. Took some photos of Brisbane buildings but not really able to compete with HK harbour! I like it here. I am rather too far out of town in some ways – all my other hotels are city centre but I am enjoying the quiet. Houses are big with plenty of land. Some have living quarters upstairs. Most cars look large and new and overall standard of living is good. Also glad it is cooler (May = November here, but feels like an English May day). Watched a bit of a movie later and was asleep by around midnight (10pm HK). Before that rang Deb for her to call me back. Not a great line but glad to talk to her. Whilst content with my own company, I miss having someone to talk to and share with and to curl up with in bed. Nice to speak and hear.
DAY 6 – Brisbane & the Beach
Woke at 5am for no apparent reason except, the 9 hour marathon apart, it seems to have been my staple fare for the last week. Vainly tried to sleep so watched dire TV and tidied and had shower and went into breakfast at 7. Several men there, presumably working. Had fruit, juice, toast and a very good cooked breakfast. All very British. Read local paper – article on UK elections (yesterday) and a vaccine for cervical cancer discovered at Queensland University, which is very near to here. Lovely and sunny, even at this hour. Wandered up the road again (also did before bed last night which I forgot to mention). Very tranquil after Hong Kong and Kowloon. Being on my own, perhaps beginning to appreciate a little what it must feel like to be single!
Talked to lady cleaning my room. Motel is mainly reps and travellers. She was interested in my trip round the world, had lived in England and loved Boots! (she’d seen my toiletries in the bathroom). Decided against walking round Brisbane and found a bus to the beach at Bribie Island. Very sunny but a good fresh breeze so nowhere as uncomfortable as Hong Kong. Walked probably a couple of miles (maybe less) to a headland. Sea very warm. Very fresh breeze. Picked up some shells and found some amazing driftwood in various shades of grey and white forming a chaotic skeletal sculpture. Ambled back. A lady talked to me and took some photos. Apparently not a very popular beach, despite the perfect sand, because the waves are not big enough for surfers! Earlier had a rather sad salad at a café just off the beach. Australian fast food tends to be unimaginative and unhealthy! People quite friendly but not as ‘upfront’ as I imagined or maybe as they are charicatured or portrayed. Home the way I came and watched news and organised photos. Cannot get online and running out of phone money. Caught the sun a little on the beach. Bought a t-shirt there.
In the evening watched some more TV – including the UK election result. Tony Blair returned for 3rd term with a vastly reduced majority. Aussies blamed this on the ‘Iraq lies’ factor. Lowest ever mandate for a government. Aus. news dominated by hostage in Iraq. Went out to local Thai restaurant. Had to bring your own wine as it seems restaurants are not licensed so found nearby ’bottle shop’! A little like America with their liquor stores. Good food and decent service. Feeling quite reflective, and far from home. There seems to be retail outlets everywhere, but not suited to the man au pied! Later watched some more TV. Decent courtroom documentary about two guys who had been racing down a highway and hit a slow moving car and killed two passengers and seriously injured a third. Was it murder? Did the accused realise and appreciate the risk? Anyway, they were not convicted or murder. Slept from about 1 till 4 fitfully. Had a text from H and got D to call but not a good line and difficult to engage. H has finished her SATS, James starts next week. Woke again at 4 and felt very restless and homesick. Took 4 herbal tablets and put TV on watching a healing razamataz in Japan where people were healed and falling backwards. Could be staged, emotional or genuine! But whole emphasis was on physical healing rather than spiritual. Also chap advertised a video were they an analysed Jesus’ death. I had seen this yesterday, with a gruelling piece on scourging. Today they showed the nails through the wrists and how the Romans designed crucifixion to be as painful as possible a death. Then switched to another station for a NZ preacher talking about a new change and a new life – financial, emotional etc. He shouted and his blonde wife sang! Switched off the lights and listened to him shout and fell asleep for another 2 and 1/2 hours.