Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Brisbane, Barrier and Beyond

(ok, it's actually back,but beyond sounds better)

The drive north from Coffs Harbour to Brisbane consists of a good windy highway through mostly forested area, it was so nice to get a glimpse of the farmlands and ocean as we approached the coast just south of Brisbane. As you can see, the vegetation is a little different from that in NZ, but it's very beautiful.

Red police car in Brisbane

Brisbane is a big city, not unlike Vancouver, but everything, it seems, is centered around the harbour where multiple ferries and fast cats take you to various points across the water. The city also boasts many bridges, the most notable is the Story Bridge which, like the others, links the north and south shores.

Jenny, Jay & Jocelyn with Story Bridge in the background

Jenny in Brisbane harbour

There is a huge botanical garden in downtown Brisbane which borders the water and we enjoyed a lovely walk along the boardwalk and through the gardens. As you all know, I love taking pictures of flowers and it was here that I was dubbed an 'old person' by a group of teenagers curious about why I was standing in a flower bed taking a picture of a tree. I was shocked! but it won't stop me from continuing one of my favorite hobbies.

While in Brizzy, we took a drive up Mt. Coot-tha for a panoramic view of the city. It was a beautiful day and we enjoyed a nice 3k mini-hike to see the art trail. We are always on the lookout for koalas and kangaroos, but have yet to see them in the wild. Mt. Coot-tha stands 287 metres above sea level at the eastern end of the Taylor range. It used to be know as One Tree Hill after the bush was cleared leaving a lone eucalyptus tree standing atop the hill. In 1880, when the area became a public recreational reserve, it was renamed and the name comes from the honey 'ku-ta' which the aboriginal people used to collect in the area.

Marg & Jay at the top of Mt. Coot-tha

Aboriginal style art at Mt. Coot-tha

One of Brisbanes latest attractions is the Wheel of Brisbane, a 60 metre ferris wheel with 42 air conditioned cars. The ride offers a comfortable and spectacular view of Brisbane and beyond. Since we had just enjoyed a similar vew from the mountain top, we opted not to fork out the $50 to ride the ferris wheel, and took pictures of it instead.

Wheel of Brisbane

Beautiful walkway on Brizzy's south shore

One of the many public garden areas in downtown Brisbane

Anzac memorial in the center of town

These signs are everywhere, but we didn't see any wild kangaroos on the road.

We were on a mission to drive as far north as possible to facilitate a snorkel trip out to the Great Barrier Reef and after much deliberation, we decided to go as far as the Town of 1770 rather than all the way up to Cairns. It was here that we boarded the Spirit of 1770 for a daytrip to Lady Musgrave island, one of only a few islands located on the Barrier Reef. It was a perfect day, sunny and calm, for a snorkel. We saw lots of coral and some cool fish, but our favorites were the sea turtles!
Lady Musgrave Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

The Town of 1770 marked our turning point. On our trip back south, we drove through Bundaberg, where most of Australias sugar is grown, milled and exported. The town is also the birthplace of Bert Hinkler, famous solo aviator, who made his first solo flight from England to Australia in 1928 in 15 days. In 1933, after years of successful flight, he left England once again, bound for Australia, but his plane went missing early in his flight. He and his plane were later found in Itlay and by order of Benito Mussolini, he was burried in Florence with full military honours. Bundaberg has an aviation museum in honour of its hometown hero.

Sugar cane growing in Bundaberg

Since we'd already visited Brisbane, we opted to stop in Mooloolaba, a city about an hour north of Brisbane. We loved it here! We had a beautiful waterfront hotel that looked out over the marina. Mooloolaba is on a narrow peninsula, so there are beaches all around and they've built up a really pretty esplanade with restaurants and boutique shops which made for a nice afternoon stroll.

I had spotted the Peanut Van on the drive north, but since it's claim to fame is 'the worlds best and freshest peanuts' we just had to stop on the drive south. We tasted all different flavors, settling on chill-lime and sweet and salty. MMMM!

The Peanut Van

Next it was back to Coffs Harbour, which we enjoyed so much on the way up. This time, we visited the famous Big Banana!

From Coffs, we detoured off the main highway to the farming community of Booral, where we stayed with Rod and Barbara, parents of Elizabeth from Shambala. They, very generously, hosted us for two days and showed us around their huge property. We loved learning about the various farm chores that are done everyday and we also enjoyed the animals, especially the dogs and cats. Rod and Barbara have a herd of cattle, sheep, goats and chucks (chikens for you Canadians) as well as three huge Maremma dogs and one herding dog. Bundy, the hearder, loved chasing the stick and the girls loved playing with him.

Welcome to the farm!

Rod and Barbara's farmhouse

Bernardo, guard dog or welcoming committee?

Jocelyn & Tabitha, she looks like Zoe

Jenny and Bundy

Jay & Bernardo

Jay, learning from Barbara, how to move the electric fence

These are some hungry cows!

Aussie Chucks!

We drove in to Newcastle and did some sightseeing. Pretty harbour city! It was here that we visited the famous Harry's Cafe de Wheels. Harry's began in the late 1930's when it's founder realized an absence of late night 'good eats'. The location in Newcastle is one of the last tram cars to run in Sydney. Harry's has become a National icon and has been visited by many celebrities (other than us!) such as Frank Sinatra, Robert Mitchum, Marelene Dietrich, Kerry Packer and more recently, Sir Richard Branson, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Brook Shields, Pat Rafter, Olivia Newton-John, Jerry Lewis, Billy Crystal, Pamela Anderson, Sara O’Hare, Lachlan Murdoch, Kerri-Anne Kennerley, Adrian Greiner, Anthony Bourdain and Peter Blakely. All come in search of Harry's famous pies and peas, a mince pie topped with mashed potatoes and peas and covered in gravy - a delicious messy meal.

Harry's Cafe de Wheels, Newcastle

Newcastle Harbour

Newcastle Ocean Baths

Just before tea on our last night on the farm, Rod took us out for a farm tour in one of his many vintage cars. Us girls had a riot riding up top but had to keep our mouths closed to avoid eating too many of the the mozzies that show up at dusk. It was really funny, Bundy was told to stay behind and was closed in behind the gate at the house, but when we reached the Peppercorn Anchorage, 2 km down the way, he was there to greet us! We got to see a couple of kangaroos in behind the garage but they were too far away for a good picture, so you'll have to take my word for it.

Ready to go on the farm tour

Rod and Barbara, we can't thank you enough for your kind hospitality. We really enjoyed meeting you both and visiting your beautiful home.

So now, we had to make our way back to Sydney for our early flight out. We stopped in Manly, on the north shore of the Sydney harbour to get a picture of the city and hopefully the Opera House, but it was cloudy and we couldn't figure out where to go for that Opera House pic. Manly was buzzing with activity even though it was a Sunday. Throughout our stay in Australia, surfers were a common sight, it's not unlikely to see them walking along the streets with their boards or riding their bikes with special board brackets.

Some Manly men

Never seen a sign like this before!

Our last experience in Sydney, was a visit to Hillsong Church. It was so busy, but we were welcomed by several people to their 'live recording' service. It was quite exciting to see all the cameras and lights set up for this special event and, as usual, the music and worship were excellent! We'll look forward to getting the new CD when it comes out.
Getting ready for the start of the service

Extreme worship!

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