Sydney to Brisbane

February 9 - March 5, 2003

Coffs Harbour

With only a few weeks left in Australia we decided to spend one last week on an Australian beach. Coffs Harbour is a quiet place and I wouldn't recommend it for an exciting holiday but we found a nice apartment where we could relax and there was a great pool, jacuzzi, sauna and barbeque in the complex so it suited us fine. I think I had a swim and a spa everyday while Richard decided to try his luck with some more surfing lessons. But you've guessed it, disaster struck, it looks like he's destined not to surf because he pulled a muscle in his neck after his second lesson so that was the end of that - again! Still, it meant that he was free to relax for the rest of the week. [Pulled muscle meaning waking up in screaming agony at 2am unable to move my head - Ed]

Park Beach, Coffs Harbour

Unusually for us we only went out on the town one night but we found that a couple of the pubs had bands on and one of them was quite fun. They weren't anything special but with everybody dancing enthusiastically it was quite a laugh and once again they played an Aussie favourite, The Proclaimers 500 miles - guaranteed to get any Aussie crowd up and dancing. The price of the drinks probably helped the frivolity too with a glass of wine costing less than a pound and a pint of beer going for £1.60.

I eventually made it down to the beach on our last day but it was so hot we couldn't stay there for long, just long enough for a swim and then we enviously watched the excellent surfers.

Back to Brisbane - this really really is the last time!

Selling the Falcon

It was great to be back in Brisbane, we knew we only had a couple of weeks before the Grand Prix so we had to try to sell the car quickly so that we could book our flight tickets to Melbourne and then onto New Zealand. We thought we'd try the auction houses to see if they would buy the car from us but they could only offer us just over a third of what it cost us so no go there. We decided to sell it ourselves through an advert in the Trading Post but to put it on at a very, very reasonable price (we put it on at $5,450 and we'd paid $8,000 ten months earlier) because we only had about two weeks to sell it in and the Trading Post only comes out once a week so if no one phones you have a week's wait to lower the price.

First, we had to get a road worthy certificate (RWC) for the car so we went back to the friendly Goodyear garage we had used before. Unbelievably they remembered my name after seven months and luckily they only found one thing which needed dealing with to get the certificate which was to repair a medium sized chip in the windscreen. When they had done it we couldn't even see where the chip had been in the first place. We then had to get the car professionally valeted because instead of having a white car with a grey interior we had a orange dust coloured car from driving around the hot and dry interior of Australia which had become ingrained in the paint work, it needed two cut and polishes to get it looking good - better than when we bought it I think. The worst thing about the interior of the car is that it is faded because it is so hot in Australia and unless you keep your car in a garage all the plastic inside, the dashboard and doors get sun scorched.

Within hours of putting the advert in the paper we had sold the car, somebody got a bargain but I don't feel too bad about it because I think that the person that bought the car, a young mother, will appreciate it and it meant that we could enjoy our final couple of weeks in Brisbane with no worries just concentrating on having fun and meeting up with our friends for the last few times (boo hoo).

Liz and Patrick

Many years ago my Mum shared a house in London with Liz who now lives with her husband, Patrick, about one and a half hours west of Brisbane in a small place called Esk (population about 2,000) but we hadn't had a chance to see them in September 2002 when we'd last been in Brisbane because they had been teaching at a summer school in China and then backpacking around Thailand. Now they were back so I got in touch and they came to pick us up (us being sans car). They have a lovely old Queenslander house on about 5 acres of land (part of which has a horse tenant on it at the moment). After a lovely lunch including tasting their homemade brews (lovely crisp apple cider for me and lager AND ale for Richard) we attempted to stay awake as we drove around in the heat of the day to see some of the lovely countryside. We stopped at the Caboonah Homestead which was built by a pioneer in the 19th century with lovely views over the river and lots of old relics of times gone by, the best being the inventive air conditioning system involving a pull down hatch in the roof which allowed air to circulate around the house - very much needed. In the evening we sat outside, ate, drank and told travelling tales while kangaroos bounced through the garden and little green frogs hopped around our feet (causing Richard to jump higher than the frogs could).

The Runamuk Two

Unsuccessful fishing on Lake Cessnock

Liz and Patrick go for long fishing trips - fishing all day and saving enough fish to cook in the evening at their camp. So when Patrick said he was going fishing we wanted to give it a try. They have a little fishing boat, The Runamuk Two, but the fish weren't biting. Nevertheless, it was very peaceful out on the lake and despite being grey and threatening it didn't rain too much. We tried two different types of fishing, first some trawling where we hung the fishing lines over the back and then slowly drove around the lake and then some casting where you cast the line and then slowly reel it in - I liked casting because it felt like true fishing. At one point I felt a tug on my line and Patrick started to reel the line in only to find a very untasty looking clump of weeds on the end. Fishing is very popular in Australia, they have a fishing forecast as well as a weather forecast. Click here for a photo of me trying to fish.

Richard, Jo, Liz and Patrick, Mount Glorious

Mount Glorious

A week later we saw Liz and Patrick again. We went to Mount Glorious (as the name suggests it's a great place) which is a national park near Brisbane, a very beautiful and remote place to escape from the city. There is a cafe up there (I can't remember the name) where a wide variety of colourful birds come to visit encouraged by bird food. If you sit outside to have lunch then you are warned that the Kookobura might try to steal your food. We didn't see any Kookobura but we saw brightly coloured orange and green King Parrots and red and blue Rosellas as well as finches, white pigeons and other birds which we couldn't identify.

Stella, Johnny, Janet, Richard and Jo, Brisbane

Saying goodbye to friends

Our last week in Brisbane we did some mad rushing around socialising. We spent a lot of time with Janet, Jamie, Stella and Johnny knowing that it would be the last time we saw them for a very long time - a sad thought. Tref was around for a few days aswell so we had some great times altogether. So had much changed since we'd been in Brisbane in October 2002? Well the most significant and surprising change was Jamie who had given up drinking for three months - if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes I would never have believed it! Still well done mate and I know Janet was happy to have a chauffeur to ferry her around while she quaffed Chardonnay with us. Many, many thank you's to Stella, Johnny, Janet and Jamie for making our last couple of weeks such fun. If it wasn't a barbeque in the evening it was a coffee and chat in Stella and Janet's lunchhours and I will miss the good times we had. Richard and I are insanely jealous of Stella and Johnny's beautiful pool with pretty lighting and a jacuzzi in one corner with seats and a table (to put your wine glass on) - how civilised is that? We also appreciated Melissa's impromptu performance of some fantastic opera singing, thank you. I hope one day we'll see you all again.

And, of course, we couldn't leave Australia without returning to the Paddo Tavern for some comedy. A work colleague of Jamie's had entered a stand-up competition, the winner of the final would be flown to Melbourne and this was the first heat. There were about 15 acts and they were all really good, and Jamie's friend, Phil, was one of the best but unfortunately he didn't win that night. Later we heard that he got a wild card and went through to the final but sadly didn't make it to Melbourne. That night we introduced Trefor to the Paddo Tavern's fatal two for the price of one deal which kicks in after the comedy to get you to stay in the pub for another few.

Tref, Australia Zoo

Still I don't think he felt as bad as I did the next day when with a bad hangover I wandered around Australia Zoo in the torrential rain probably looking as miserable as some of the drenched animals. Click here for wet emus and here for a beautiful wet dingo. However, I braved the rain rather than joining Tref in wearing one of these fetching plastic macs. Unfortunately the infamous Steve Irwin, CROCODILE HUNTER, wasn't at the Zoo the day we were there but we saw some other nutters getting into the cages with the massive crocodiles and hand feeding them - will they never learn! You could say the same of us, for some reason we ventured into the venomous snakes building which had the ten most venomous snakes in the world in it. It was feeding time so the keeper opened the glass door to the enclosure of venomous snake number one and pushed some food in and shut the door, ditto for the second most venomous snake but when he opened the door to the third most venomous snake the snake started sliding out of his cage, it got over halfway out before the keeper managed to push the snake back in but even the keeper was terrified.

So, that really was the last time, we were so pleased that because of strange car registration laws we ended up back in Brisbane but now we were excited about flying to Melbourne for the Formula 1 Grand Prix.

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