Tag Archives: Brisbane

Thursday, August 29

It was still dark when I got up this morning. I finished packing, dropped my key in the drop slot at the front desk, and headed for the front door, where a taxi was waiting for me.

We drove through the city and out along the river. Away from downtown, Brisbane is largely unchanged. The dawn was glorious. The just-past-full moon still hung in the deep blue sky. Mist was rising from the river. Opposite the moon, a silver and pastel sky brightened until the huge, orange, fireball sun topped the horizon. It was splendid.

Brisbane airport is hugely spacious and filled with plants. At this early hour, I breezed through and out to my gate. We took off on time for Sydney, heading out over the ocean and nearby islands before swinging south.

Clouds among the mountains

Clouds among the mountains

We followed the Great Dividing Range, and below me, the mist-haunted mountains looked beautiful and green: dark green of forests, brighter green of paddocks, fields, and clearings.

Out over the red land

Out over the red land

In Sydney, it was an easy stroll to the gate for my flight to Alice Springs—and then out over the broad, red land. My seatmate on the flight was a delightful woman from the office of Aboriginal Affairs. By the time we landed, we were well enough acquainted to happily share a taxi into town.

My heart sang as we crossed the rust-colored miles to town and nearly burst as we passed through Pitchi Ritchi, the pass through the MacDonnell Ranges that admits passengers from the south into Alice Springs. It’s unbelievably good to be back.

We reached my destination first, Toddy’s Backpacker Cabins, and I was dropped off. Toddy’s offers a level of accommodation equal to some of the places I stayed toward the end of my previous trip: clean, safe, cheap, laid-back, friendly, and very basic. I was shown to my room across a broad yard and then given a tour of the facilities, including the shower block, barbecue area, small shop for necessities, and laundry. The furniture in my room is a bed, a chair, and a large, strange wooden contraption that appears to have been designed to hold a couple of backpacks. The floor is linoleum, which makes sense given the pervasiveness of dust. There is a hand basin (cold water only, but still, nice to have water in the room). But it is enough.

The yard is littered with 4WDs, and a dog was sleeping in the dust as I passed. The clientele is pretty young, and the staff appears to be a mix of young locals, young Europeans, and older Aborigines. This place is perfect for Alice Springs. A bonus I quickly discovered is that these folks are really into the whole outback experience. They offer cheap tours, bike loans, and if you can get six people together, George, a member of the staff here, will drive you anywhere you want to go. Plus tonight, they’re having a barbecue (with kangaroo on the menu). Could hardly ask for more.


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August 28, part 3

We descended the side of the mountain opposite the one we’d ascended on the way up to Binna Burra. As we wound through the forest, our driver, Brock, described what we were passing, then spend a good bit of time telling me things I should see on my next visit to Queensland. (He recommended Moreton Island, which he reckons is as nice as Frazer Island, and is one of his favorite holiday spots. Of course, since I haven’t seen Frazer Island, his suggestion actually adds two destinations to my “next time” list.)

After about an hour of driving, the Gold Coast appeared on the horizon, the line of high rises in the distance looking like broken teeth at the mouth of the green valley, with the ocean beyond, shimmering invitingly. A while later, we dropped some people in Nerang (the fastest-growing town in the Gold Coast, we were told), and then continued on to Brisbane.

The sun was just setting as we pulled into the Brisbane Transit Centre. I shouldered my pack, tripod, and camera bag, and, in the blazing orange sunset light, I headed through the Roma Street Gardens, then turned up Albert Street for the climb back to my hotel.

It was dark when I reached the hotel. I stopped at the desk to pick up my big bag, used the free taxi phone to order a taxi for the morning, then said farewell to the hotel manager and his wife, since I’ll be gone well before the front desk opens tomorrow morning.

I’d brought some fresh fruit back with me, and I had a banana and a “custard apple” for dinner. I’d been told I should try the custard apple, and while it was not yet quite completely ripe, it was still lovely and very much like custard. The gnarled, black exterior hides a creamy, white interior dotted with large, shiny, black seeds. The soft flesh has both a flavor and texture that make it easy to see where this fruit got its common name.

Then it was time to pack and prepare for tomorrow’s departure. I’m sorry to be leaving Queensland, but I’m very excited about getting back to the Red Centre. I set my alarm for 4:50 am, and by 9:00 pm, I was pretty well ready for bed–and for my departure tomorrow.

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Monday, August 26

Up early. The sunrise was lovely this morning. My window faces away from city center, and I can see some of the older Brisbane, which is comforting. Below me are corrugated iron roofs and quiet streets lined with palm trees. There are also a lot of tall, new buildings, but they are more in the distance.

I packed what I needed for a couple of days in my daypack, left my larger bag in the luggage room at the hotel, shouldered daypack and camera equipment, and headed out the door. I must say that, in the morning light, and with more people out and about, Brisbane is quite lovely. However, it’s a city, and I didn’t really come back to Australia to see cities. Which was why my destination was the Brisbane Transit Terminal on Roma Street, and not downtown. My walk was fairly short but pleasant, through gardens and parkland adjacent to the Transit Terminal, and past the old, 1876 Roma Street Train Station. Reassuring to see that history and nature are part of the plan, as the city continues to modernize.

The Transit Terminal is a fairly large complex and is the hub of city transport–all buses (tour, long distance, and local), taxis, and trains. There is also a hotel and a number of shops useful to travelers: chemist (pharmacy), newsagent, and food, including meat pies–which I no longer need, as I had breakfast, but I was pleased to know they were still available. Funny how, even though I don’t really expect everything to be the same as it was on my first trip (including me–I’ve changed, too), I still hope for some things to be untouched and familiar.

I’m now sitting on the little Mountain Coach Co. coach, ready to head up to Binna Burra. I’m in immensely good spirits and sorry only that I don’t have six months this time (or at least a few more weeks). Just as I was on my first time in Brisbane, so too now, I am vividly aware of how unlikely it is that I’ll ever get to see everything here. Oh, well–“not enough time” is pretty much how I feel anywhere I travel.

As we climb into the mountains, I noted that the phone wires are strung from tree to tree, and utility poles are only used where there are gaps. That’s one definite advantage to having lots of tall, straight trees.

Morning break at Canungra. We stopped in the center of town this time. It’s still a very small town, but it is built up just enough that it was not really recognizable. That said, my main memory from my previous very short stop here was of the dark wood of the tearoom and a very large staghorn fern growing there.

Then it was off for a long, steady climb into the mountains, to Binna Burra.

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August 25, part 2

Then it was on to Brisbane. I had no trouble getting to Brisbane, but once I was in Brisbane, I wasn’t doing so well. I had no idea where I was going, and since the car rental place closes early on Sunday, I had a limited amount of time to find it. The car rental place in Sydney didn’t have maps of Brisbane (why, if someone is renting a car to drive Sydney to Brisbane, wouldn’t a rental company think to supply maps?), plus they had been unable to give me any directions to their Brisbane location. The map I did have was one page of a travel guide that was several years old. That got me in the neighborhood, but all the one-way streets were defeating me. I began to panic. Because it was Sunday, the business district was close to deserted, but I finally spotted a policeman, and he was able to direct me to the car rental place—which I reached 10 minutes before closing. I was fairly shaking from the adrenalin rush, but the charming attendants calmed me quickly, and, because it was closing time and they were leaving, they offered to drive me to my hotel–which did make me feel more kindly toward the map-free rental company.

I had booked the hotel I’d stayed at on my first trip to Australia–because, of course, I had to. It was where I’d begun the starting over. From the outside, it doesn’t look any different, but inside, it is not what it was. As the man at the front desk noted, “It has different owners and management now. You might notice some changes.” Well, it’s not awful, but it’s not as nice as it was, and that was a bit disappointing. Still, though a bit more tatty, it is clean.

I dumped my stuff in my room and then went for a walk through town. Brisbane has changed, too, at least the downtown part. I’m sorry to see that the old parts I’d loved seem overwhelmed by new buildings. I suppose if I’d never been here before, I’d be really impressed with the sophisticated glass and steel towers that are so abundant now, but I miss the Brisbane I knew.

I walked down to the Botanic Gardens and was relieved to see how little they’d changed. I knew this place. I recognized trees and plants. I walked along a still-familiar riverbank. I would have stayed longer, but the sun had set, and I wanted to get back to the hotel before it was totally dark. The afterglow of the sunset made a spectacular, flame-colored backdrop for the city.

As I walked, I looked for somewhere to get a meat pie, since it was one of those dishes I’d come to love on my first trip. However, nearly everything is closed on Sunday evening, so I headed back for dinner at the hotel. Asparagus soup and a steak were wholesome and comforting.

The people at the hotel are actually very nice. More of a pleasant, thoughtful, efficient nice, as opposed to the “pull up a chair and join us for tea and a chat” nice I encountered before. A bigger city nice–but still nice. And they are going to let me leave my suitcase here for the two days I’ll be at Binna Burra, which helps me a lot.

Anyway, it’s time to think about calling it a day. I certainly had a fair bit of fresh air and exercise today. And tomorrow, back to the rainforest!

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