Thursday, January 10, 2013

Alex Visits the Gold Coast!

 That’s it?

I’m no longer staying on the Gold Coast.  I’m traveling alone again.  Alex has gone back to Western Australia.  I just had two indescribable weeks and made an incredible new friend - that’s an understatement.  So what have I been up to since I wrote last?  Quite a bit – so hang on, and enjoy the ride!

Phil and Nicole granted Alex and I a car for a week!  We were ecstatic and very fortunate to have been granted the use of a company car to sightsee and travel around at our will, which was such a blessing. 

On New Years Eve, Alex and I went to Springbrook National Park, about 40 minutes away from where we were house-sitting.  The park is in the hinterlands of the Gold Coast, and is therefore up, amidst, and surrounding some steep hills, winding roads, rivers, waterfalls, little farms and old houses.  It is so green and peaceful, and has dashes of colourful flowers and fruit trees scattered around in all directions.  Alex thoroughly enjoyed the roads we were driving on, which were really windy and hugged cliffs and steep inclines!  The constant smirk on his face screamed “I’m loving this!”  The majority of the hills were covered in thick flora and rainforest-esque trees, with big leaves, although there were many different species all over.  There were often little hidden waterfalls and runoffs that were so naturally gorgeous.  Many lookouts that we went to allowed you to see for miles!

We had lunch at a picnic area, where Alex ate his first peanut butter and banana sandwich, made by yours truly!  After lunch, we hit a highlight of the day and drove for nearly an hour to a natural bridge, where over the years, water has made its own path and created a bridge formation in the huge rock faces.

On our way back down the hill, we stopped at a little family park, where Alex swam in the river and got eaten alive by huge flies. We had subs for dinner, and got ourselves organized for a chilled out evening on the beach, and planned on watching both the early set and midnight set of New Years Eve fireworks!  We couldn’t have made better timing… we made it to the beach, laid out the beach blanket, poured a drink, and CRACK! The first firework sprinkled and light up the sky.  An exquisite light show was put on at 8pm, and again at midnight for the ringing in of 2013.  Between the two shows, we laid on the beach, shared a few drinks, chatted about anything and everything, watched the moon rise, and even had a quick nap!  The day out and about had really tuckered us out.  After the second, (and better of the two!), show, we walked back to the car, calling Mama and Papa on the way, and made our way back to the house.  The traffic was wild, since everyone was heading home, but we made it, and were sleeping shortly thereafter.

New Years Day, the Robina Towncentre was open, and Alex needed a few things, so we had a pretty easy start to the year, walking around the mall, wandering in and out of shops.  We picked up a movie, and watched that in the evening.  It was my choice of movie, one I’d seen several times, and Alex sat through it and enjoyed it! I was going to refrain from sharing the movie title, but it was: The Notebook! (Sorry Alex!)  He did quite well, and from what he said, he enjoyed it to the best a man can.  The audio was rubbish though, so we ended up returning it and he got his money back.  No evidence!

On the 2nd, we went up the coast to Surfers Paradise!  What a place! Hustle and bustle of the Gold Coast.  Tourists and locals everywhere, running along the footpaths and beaches, keeping the servers and staff busy at the restaurants that line the streets, and keeping the lifeguards on their toes with squeals and screams of excitement while jumping into the waves as they roll in.  Alex treated me to lunch at a restaurant just over the road from the beach, and then we cooled ourselves off with an ice cream treat before hitting a few local surf shops.  We also went in to a huge arcade called Time Zone, which I had never been in to!  I’ve never really been one for arcade games, but this place gives it a whole new meaning!  There are games of all sorts, and several variations of each game!  I like to think I kicked Alex’s ass on a driving game, then he kicked mine on a “quick hands” reactions game, that requires you to hit a lit up button quickly before it goes out – but there are several lit up at a time=, in a 4x7 grid that’s about four feet high and two and a half feet wide.  I was so determined!  Our hearts were racing with competitive energy and I was laughing so hard my face hurt!  We had a hoot hanging out in there for a while, before continuing our walk about Surfers. It was a good thing we had let our stomachs settle by the time we saw a bungee ride for two, just outside the busy centre!  Similar to the structure at Wonderland, that lifts you and drops you like a superman bungee jump, this ride has a similar frame.  The capsule you sit in is pulled down below “ground level,” tilts back, and has the riders sit in a reclined position.  When you’re flung straight up towards the sky, you reach a max height of 57m in two seconds! (It’s over 150km/h!) You bob and bounce, and spin around a few times before they lower you down again, where they ask you how it was – and then offer you a deal you can’t refuse! Round two for $10! Done!  So Alex and I stayed harnessed in, and went for ROUND TWO – NO HANDS! What a thrill!  After that excitement, it was time to get home, walk the dog, eat, and relax – especially because we had a full day planned SURFING the next day!!

So we got up early on the 3rd, since we needed to factor in the hour time difference between the two states of Queensland and New South Wales, and headed south on the coast to Byron Bay! All of the morning classes had been booked out, so we enjoyed our morning wandering the beach, checking out a spectacular look out, having some lunch, and popping in and out of a few surf shops.   We were scheduled to be picked up by “Gaz” (what Aussies call people named Gary!) around 2pm, conveniently enough, where we’d parked the car.  So Gaz and his side kick Johny picked Alex and I up, and then we went on to pick up 11 others from Switzerland who were staying and studying English in Byron Bay.  Gaz and Johny are what Australians refer to as “Okka Aussies” … proper, slang speaking, rough around the edges, funny as hell, OKKA AUSSIES!  I was in stitches listening to them banter back and forth about anything and everything, trying to pick up on their strange slang terms and jokes that were really only funny because of how they were relayed, or how hard they laughed between themselves about it.  They apparently have a “word of the week” for entertainment, and the word of the week while we were there sounded like “vazzie!” – and to them meant “let’s go!” in French.  Who knows.  It was still a riot to hear them say or yell VAZZIE!! throughout the day.  So we all got a rashie to wear, and were paired up to carry two boards at a time down to the beach.  They were carried with one person at the front with the noses or the boards under each arm, and one person at the back with the tails of the boards under each arm.  Good system that helps with the wind at the beaches, and helps with the length of the boards.  Alex had surfed before, and I’d tried it on a smaller board that’s harder to learn on.  We followed along with the intro session, and then hit the water with the boards.  What a blast!  We were in the water for nearly three hours. We came out with sore achy shoulders, from paddling around in the currents and rips waiting for the perfect waves and for our shot at successfully riding a wave to the beach.  What an afternoon!  After we packed up and headed back up the coast, we had some dinner and attempted to watch the Matrix – which I had never seen.  We failed, as our eyelids became sandpaper and we dozed off for the night. 
We set the alarm early on the 4th, and made our way down to Burleigh Heads beach for the sunrise!  Ambitious souls we are… but was it ever worth it.  It looked a little too cloudy to see anything incredible, but just like the best sunsets, the sunrise was only emphasized by the clouds along the horizon.  Being out of the house by 4:25am, neither of us expected to see may people out and about in Varsity Lakes or along the beach.  We were very wrong!  There were people everywhere!  I guess we should have expected that, since starting your day in such a beautiful place only makes sense to get up early and enjoy it!  There were nearly 15 surfers catching waves when we arrived, and that number had soared to over a hundred by the time we headed home around 5:30am.  The footpaths and beaches were swarming with runners and walkers, and surfers were riding the sea before they started their respective workdays. What a site! 

We went back to sleep for a few hours, and had a pretty relaxed day together.  We did some yard work, and then actually watched the Matrix, since we’d failed the night before.  I had never seen the Matrix before, and I loved it!  What an interesting concept.  That night, we went a ways down the coast to Coolangatta, where we had a drink, then met up with Phil and Nicole for dinner at a place called Bread and Butter!  It was and evening of delicious and lovely company.  We laughed and chatted and told stories and thoroughly enjoyed the night.  We had antipasto, garlic pizza, chicken fingers, garlic prawns and fresh bread and cheese, and a fresh meat lovers pizza.  We ordered several different things and spent the evening munching and sharing the dishes.  Phil and Nicole are two of the loveliest people I’ve ever met! An absolutely perfect evening!

On the 5th, we got up relatively early to get organized and to pack our belongings, since we were heading to a city called Toowoomba to visit some more of Alex’s family friends.  Ron and Trish were scheduled to arrive home late that night, so it was perfect.  The animals wouldn’t be alone for too long, and Ron and Trish would arrive home to a clean and empty house.  We took Athena for one last long walk, and laughed while she entertained us in her favourite muddy pond, then did some last minute tidying and packing before hitting the road.

Toowoomba is the “biggest inland city” in Australia, with roughly 130 000 people.  It is about an hour and a half west of Brisbane, and is in a very lush, green, hilly place!  It’s quite nice, with many different high viewpoints that allow you to see forever.  We met up with the Girdler family and had a low-keyed afternoon with a few drinks on their balcony, that has an incredible view.  Rachel and Dave are from the UK, and have been traveling for the last few years with Dave’s job as an engineer.  They have three children, and two sweet heart cats!  Dinner was delicious, as were the drinks we had that resulted in us laughing and joking and doing the beloved famous “can you make a horse noise?” pictures! Too funny! 

The next morning, we woke up and had some breakfast, and then went out with the family to see some of the lookouts and sites of Toowoomba.  We ended up at a café at the top of a hill, and had a coffee and visited as a group there for a while before heading back down the hill.  Alex and I had a very busy day!  We left there, and headed back to Varsity Lakes to say hi and bye to Ron and Trish, then went to Tweed to see Phil and Nicole, who took us to the train station where we rode the train right into Brisbane.  We got off the train at Central Station, and the hotel that Alex had booked was a simple ride up to escalators!  We stayed at a five star hotel called The Sofitel, and it was very posh!  We had a gorgeous room and view.  Alex treated me to a buffet dinner at the Sofitel’s restaurant, where we enjoyed a starter plate of cheeses, meats, salads, and bread.  Our second plate was fresh seafood, including muscles, oysters, small crabs, and sushi.  Our main dishes was beef vindaloo and curry rice, with some veggies on the side. We managed to stretch out our dinner into a two and a half hour visit and enjoyable dinner, with a bottle of white wine.  It was fantastic.

On the 7th, we went to the AUSTRALIA ZOO, aka the STEVE IRWIN ZOO!  What an amazing day!  We even took Allison with us, since it’s always been her dream to go.  We did everything from feeding elephants, to seeing the crocodile show!  I got my picture taken with a koala (NAMED DIESEL!!!) and Alex got his picture taken with a python called Monty – how original.  We watched the Bindi show, and even went to do a fast donation tour of the animal hospital.  We had a very full on day, that had us smiling and laughing from start to finish.  We got lucky with the weather, as it was supposed to rain all day, but ended up being only slightly overcast.  We trained back, with one stop in a small town called Landsborough, for a drink.  We had Dominos for dinner, and had a quiet evening in after an incredible day.

The 8th was a strange day, since it was the wrap up of the two weeks.  We had breakfast at a really neat little café restaurant that had outdoor seating in a tree covered outdoor lounge behind the building.  After packing and checking out at 1pm, we left our bags with the concierge and went to a park where we enjoyed smoothies and each other’s company before heading back to grab our things.  We rode the train up to the airport where we had a very surreal goodbye, loaded with thank yous directed at each other, and a quick recap of good times and memories, with promises to stay in touch.  The two weeks flew, and I’ve gained an incredible friend.  Alex is back to the mines for the next three weeks, then off for one, before his last stint of three weeks before his visa runs out. 

For now, it’s time to reflect and bring on the next adventure, which I will be writing about very soon!


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