Sunday 15th February 2015
Though it must be over a week since I last wrote the time flies so quickly that it seems my contact then was just a couple of days ago. However when I last wrote I realise we were still in the depths of our South Island experience and there have been so many changes since then.
On Thursday 5th February Janis and I took off from Christchurch, finally leaving Waipounamu, the ancient Maori name for the land of the greenstone, the country that we had viewed and loved so avidly over the previous five weeks. We had said goodbye to Dorothy, Janis’s mother, who had kindly given us a lift to the Airport, and Bryan Janis’s brother who travelled with his mum to bid us farewell and soon we had boarded the Plane to fly us to Brisbane.
It was a bumpy flight across the Tasman Sea with the pure white cloud level, which a little earlier had been above us and black giving Christchurch so many heavy showers, now glistening just beneath us in the Sun. Its apparent calmness was nevertheless causing the aeroplane to leap up and down great distances very quickly, a sensation similar to being in a small boat on a rough day in a sharp choppy swell.
Furthermore when we landed at Brisbane there was also a considerable cross wind so our landing was far from level or easy. But the pilot managed very well and on finally coaxing all three parts of the undercarriage to remain firmly on the deck at the same time, there was the usual exhilarating feeling of deceleration as he applied ‘full astern both’ to bring the aircraft safely to a taxi from one hundred and fifty knots plus in a similar number of yards.
‘Bird of Paradise’ in the garden of Sharon’s flat
Looking north towards Surfers Paradise
Sharon, Janis’s sister was at the airport to collect us in her car and very swiftly she took us to Burleigh Heads, some ninety kilometres to the south on the sunny Gold Coast of Queensland, where she lives in her comfortable top floor flat.
Sleepy Koalas near Burleigh Heads
Since then she has been the perfect hostess and tour guide taking us somewhere different every day that Janis and I would never have managed to know about had we been here on our own.
But on the following day, Friday, Sharon had to go to work so we were left to our own devices. It was a good opportunity therefore to visit my old shipmate Robin and his wife Jan.
He came to pick us up and took us for lunch at his lovely home in nearby Bundell. Robin and I had sailed together as teenagers on the ‘Gladstone Star’ and only recently had our courses crossed again since then.
He and Jan were travelling around the Uk last year and had visited Janis and I on the boats whilst we were in Birmingham so they invited us then to visit them on our arrival in Queensland.
It was a wonderful day and we had a lovely lunch. Robin and I chatted on as one does over nearly remembered reminiscences of fifty plus years ago and the time flew by. Soon it was time for our host to bring us back to Burleigh Heads where Sharon was waiting to guide us on a local walk around the town and onto the beach.
I was amazed looking north along the beach to see hazily in the distance the tall skyscrapers of Surfers Paradise sticking up so close together on the far horizon and as the Sun set its light was reflecting so vividly on the mass of glass of the high buildings.
Two Sisters and Blue Sky at Surfers Paradise
….. and exotic flowers with liquid nectar…..
Staying within five minutes of the beach at Burleigh Heads means that we’ve spent a considerable time on it or in the gardens close to it where all kinds of entertainments go on, as the Sun sets especially. The main shopping James Street itself isn’t too far away either while the plentiful pubs and cafés along the waterfront spill out beneath colourful blinds onto the pavement just over the road behind the beach. All the way along to Surfers Paradise small townships and suburbs have made the most of this golden beach frontage.
…..while strange looking birds roam near the beach
On the beach are drummers and anyone can join in with their own drum; it’s surprising how many different types there are while fire jugglers throw and twirl ‘bundles’ of fire up down and roundabout very cleverly during the dusk, as darkness draws in and hundreds of brightly coloured Cockatiels fly in to roost, squealing en masse like Starlings in the tall palms around.
The climate is wonderful of course, that is in between showers of rain which can be heavy at times but mostly the population all seem to be on permanent holiday where the most important and largest item of swimwear is the surfboard.
Without a doubt servicing the tourist is the most important industry on this coast and probably in the whole of Queensland as it doesn’t stop at the beach. Just a few kilometres inland is the dense and lush Australian Bush as not far away are the national parks associated with Mount Warning, the centre of an enormous prehistoric volcano, now eroded mostly away but whose high perpendicular escarpments are now covered in rich dark green forest, which provides homes for a myriad of varied and colourful wildlife from Birds through to Butterflies to Leeches and Lizards, all of which are exotic. I find it all breath-taking and amazing.
Nocturnal green frog at Springbrook
We spent a day at Surfers Paradise and while young bronzed bodies soaked up the hot Sun in their apparent immortality oblivious to the health dangers they were taking, we took a two hour trip on a boat in the canal just behind the dense ‘high rise’ to see the super yachts and five million dollar plus houses of the rich. Many of them were unoccupied I noticed.
However we have also been into the bush and we three spent two nights at a backpacker’s hostel at the small hamlet of Springbrook in the national park of the same name. We tramped many miles and saw wonderful things as already indicated. The highlight was feeding the very colourful wild birds from our hands in the natural garden where we were staying and a night walk to see bright green nocturnal frogs and giant spiders lurking in their webs.
Janis’s friends from Lincolnshire, Steve and Tina on holiday came to visit us at Burleigh Heads and stayed for three nights so we had a great reunion with them.
Feeding the birds at Springbrook
My final observation of Queensland is that it seems to lack culture generally and the only form of regular entertainment apart from the beach is the cinema at the multi screen giants. However there are traces of live theatre around in the form of amateur dramatics and Sharon had managed to book tickets last night at the community centre at Tugun, one of the aforementioned local suburbs, where the local amateur group performed very adequately Alan Aykbourne’s farce ‘How the Other Half Loves’. We were able to take a picnic supper and ate it at tables prior to the show beginning.
And that’s it old chum! You’re about up to date. Having had no acknowledgement of my email from Cheryl at Kate Boats I wrote again to her yesterday concerning your battery change and engine service so hopefully all will be done before Janis and I return home on Tuesday 3rd March. I do hope that things are well otherwise with you.
Until the next time I write, all the best.We shall soon be home now.