We spent nearly six weeks in Brisbane this time and both of us managed to do some work. When we had some free time we found lots of things to do in and around Brisbane. But what was really nice about staying somewhere for six weeks was that we got to settle down a bit (unpack our backpacks) and meet some really nice people, new friends, and also meeting up with old friends from home.
Jo - Arriving back in Brisbane for the third time we knew we needed to settle down for a month or two to earn some money, so when I was offered the possibility of 4-6 weeks work at Queensland Treasury we decided to take it if offered. The offer was subject to more computer package tests (intermediate word and excel), no problem and I was given the job. I started the next day and had a mad three day handover from a manic but very friendly Janet, who was rushed off her feet. At the end of her last day we got to relax a bit though as there was a work bash with free wine (those are always my favorite ones) being held at the posh Port Office Hotel Marble Bar nearby. It was trendy and completely unlike the traditional Aussie pubs, I could have been in London having a glass of Chardonnay after a day at the Wellcome Trust! Obviously I had too much to drink which is a great way to bond with new colleagues but it was good fun and they seemed like a nice bunch. We'd see on Monday.
Although I've done a lot of temping work in the past and I'm OK on computer packages I was worried that some things would be done differently in Australia. So what happens when you don't know something?, you ask, feel a bit of a prat because it's usually a simple question but it's the quickest way to get work done. One thing I had to do in my last job (at Queensland Transport) was to fill in the postcodes for some addresses on letters but I didn't have internet access (how can we work nowadays without internet access?). Every Aussie would know that postcodes are in the back of the phone book but I had no idea that was the case so I asked and had the answer in no time. So everyone at Queensland Treasury also had to put up with me asking what they probably thought were obvious questions a couple of times a day until I got the hang of things. Luckily they humoured me and were very friendly and helpful - no really I'm not just saying that to get a good reference! They were really nice so thanks, in particular to Helen, Stella, Debbie and Michelle and, of course, Janet for showing me the ropes in the first place.
So what did I do for 5½ weeks? Well, I was helping with the administration for a project and part of that was communicating information to other government departments so I typed up quite a few powerpoint presentations for people to present so I'm a whizz at those now. I also had to set up a laptop and a projector and scroll through the slides everyday for two weeks while someone talked through the slides. It got a bit monotonous because it was the same presentation but the laptop, projector and room were different every time so I was always on my toes working out why the presentation wasn't being projected onto the screen, every computer has it's own quirks. There was lots of creating and editing of spreadsheets, charts and I even designed the layout of a work force information kit which was quite fun. I always enjoy being involved in a project because there is some satisfaction seeing it progress and it was nice to be somewhere long enough to get to know people which meant I was a little apprehensive when we had to leave in October because you never know what it will be like next time.
Richard - I carried on with some work for freeloader: which has the benefit of being paid in sterling, and at a better rate than temping, but the disadvantage of leaving me stuck in the apartment all day. Not much more to say about it really, apart from another whinge about using the internet over a modem being really crap. Especially trying to download large files.
Luckily in our last four weeks in Brisbane we had a really nice apartment and, believe it or not, four weeks is the longest we've stayed in a place since we came away. It was almost perfect, a one bedroom apartment, 15 minutes walk from the CBD (central business district) where Queensland Treasury is based. It was new and nicely decorated with a spa bath, a full kitchen and a big balcony which overlooked the city. So what was the catch? Well, there were building works going on next door which started at 6am, even on a Saturday for the entire length of our stay!
We did quite a lot in our time off. Apart from going to the pub and stand-up comedy, here are some of the fun things we did and the places we went.
Brisbane seems to have one festival after another so there's always something to do. The River Festival had lots of events but the only one we made it to was the Riverfire fireworks. The fireworks were set off from bridges, buildings and boats and reflected off the high rise buildings and the river and it was all set to music. It was pretty good, in fact I think it beat the millenium fireworks in London. We met up by the river to watch the fireworks with some friends from home, John and Kath, who'd arrived in Brisbane a few days before and were planning to stay a while and get jobs. Unfortunately catching up properly with them had to wait because John was suffering from a rather bad hangover so they went home early!
The Breakfast Creek Hotel (Brekkie Creek) does the best steak in Australia (probably). It's famous for it's steak and also because one day in May 1999 Mikhail Gorbachev had lunch there - a well done fillet steak washed down with cabernet suavignon shiraz - sounds good huh? We had to check it out, and then go back for more as it was the best steak we'd had in Australia, so far. We are travelling worldwide trying to find a winner for the 'Best Steak in the World Award' and along with The Gaucho Grill in London, Brekkie Creek is a strong contender. It's recently been refurbished but had just opened when we went there and it's been done up nicely so there is a trendy bar inside with good cocktails and then a relaxed outdoor restaurant which just serves very good quality hunks of meat, yum.
Dreamworld is one of the theme parks on the Gold Coast, along with Seaworld, Wet 'n' Wild and Movie World. It has some awesome rides, the scarier they are the better - The Giant Drop (where you drop from a massive height so that it feels like you'll never reach the ground) and The Tower of Terror were the best but there were also some OK roller coasters. When Dreamworld opened we rushed in and onto the good rides, queueing for an hour for the popular ones and so by 3.30pm we'd done all the big rides which was lucky because there was a big thunderstorm and it tipped it down with rain. We went to watch the Bengal tigers being fed and they didn't look too chuffed by being out in the rain.
The V8 races are held all over Australia every year and when we were in Brisbane there was one going on nearby. Janet's husband Jamie is a big fan of the V8 and we enjoyed it in Darwin so we were definitely up for some more, so we went with them and their friend, Phil. We turned up at their house early in the morning and jumped into the back of their van. Of course, Jamie was well prepared with an esky (cool box) full of stubbies (bottles of beer), one for the road and we were ready to go. Janet and I were the designated drivers for the day, surprise surprise, so that the boys could drink. Richard had said that he wasn't going to start drinking until later in the day as it would be fatal if he started at 9.30am but it would be rude to refuse (and it's also practically impossible for Richard to refuse a beer) - you can guess how drunk he got.
The race was pretty good - cars going around in circles (girls interpretation of day - perhaps Richard can illuminate on the technicalities!!) No really it was a 500km race, a sort of endurance race with two drivers and the only problem was that we couldn't work out who was in the lead for most of the race until we discovered that with our binoculars we could read the scoreboard, just towards the end of the race. It was a really exciting end, when one of the Holden drivers who had been leading from the beginning messed it up, going off the track and then, even more embarrassing, ran out of petrol on the last corner before the end leaving Marcus Ambrose, driving a Ford, to win the day which was a relief because we were with Ford supporters (lucky we have a Ford car else I'm not sure that we would have got a lift). In fact it was Ford's first win of the season - they'd been getting hammered by Holden, and Mark Skaife in particular, all year. Weather was so-so, there was a bout of rain, quite heavy so I put on my fetching yellow plastic poncho (Richard would rather get wet than wear his). The red tongue is because I'd just had a red slush puppy. By the end of the day Richard was onto cokes and being called a wuss by the Aussies for not being able to take his beer and Jamie was holding his beer but not able to keep his pants on and was mooning from the van as we left the car park. Jamie was also being very considerate towards any Holden drivers asking them to check if they had enough petrol as he was worried they might run out like the racing driver! Top day.
Not to be deterred by bad weather on Fraser Island we decided to visit another sand island, this time by sailing boat. Solo, a former
racing boat, has circumnavigated the world three times and won the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race
four times and now does tourist trips. When we got there we went high speed ski tube riding
which was great fun. Somehow we managed to stay on but others kept flying off at high speed. Then we had a go at sand tobogganing which was the
best fun, flying down a steep sand dune on your front. The trick is to pull the front of the board up so that it doesn't dig into the sand and that
way you go really fast. However, we think that they should install ski lifts to get you up the sand dunes because, honestly, it was
such hard work,
one step up and then you slide backwards.
Richard and I both flew down the dune and the only scary bit is when you get near the bottom and have to try to stop
the board which is practically flying by this point. I was worried I might end up with my head firmly buried in the sand and my legs
sticking up in the air, á la some cartoon character, but as it turned out I stopped OK with the only nasty bit being that as you slow
down sand finds it way everywhere - ears, eyes, nose, mouth, between toes, inside swimsuits... On the way back we were entertained by a
dolphin riding the bow wave at the front of the boat.
About one hour north of Brisbane, inland from the coast, are the Glass House Mountains and the quaint villages of Montville and Maleny, where John and Kath are
going to live. The countryside is beautiful, very English with green rolling hills, wild flowers and lots of cattle and chickens but
with the striking mountains in the distance.
At the time we were there the whole area was having a scarecrow festival and lots of the houses and farms had scarecrow
scenes outside them. Our favourite was the scarecrow wedding.
Our last weekend was spent saying goodbye to our friends in Brisbane. On the Friday night we went for a barbie at Janet and Jamie's house
with Stella (who also worked at the Treasury with me) and her husband, Johnny. And on Sunday we went to John and Kath's flat for
another great barbie. Thanks to all of you for making our time in Brisbane such good fun.
So this could be the last time we see Brisbane which is kind of sad. We spent so long there it was almost starting to feel like home - but not quite. Time to go for some more adventures. We've packed the ginger beer and sandwiches, now all we need is an intrepid dog to hunt down a mystery - no sorry just reading a favourite book of mine and got muddled up. Really must move on from the Famous Five. We had planned to go straight to Sydney for a few months and do some more work but after speaking to a few people we realised that we wouldn't be able to drive around the country in January as we had planned. January in the Northern Territory and northern Western Australia is very hot and wet, some of the roads would be flooded and we would be stuck in the middle of nowhere. So, instead of two weeks travelling it turned out to be a few months and the first leg of the journey was down the Gold Coast to Sydney.