On the road again

Another stolen title, this time from the classic song by 60s American blues-rock band, Canned Heat. On Monday, we were headed out of Cairns back to the Gold Coast for a couple of days with Ishbel’s sister and brother-in-law (V&G).

Despite having heard the occasional horror story about their tendency to cancel flights at a moment’s notice, our Jetstar return experience was just as straightforward and trouble free as the journey up to Cairns nine days previously. It felt like we were getting out just in time as the heat had rolled into town with a vengeance with temperatures hitting 36°C. We had enjoyed a farewell breakfast with Ellen before she left for the airport earlier in the day to start her long journey back to Germany. Our own, much shorter, flight to Brisbane was taking off in the afternoon so we hid from the scorching sunshine in the air-conditioned mall near the train station.

We went back to the hotel to pick up our bags and summoned our taxi. On arrival, we readjusted our bags to make sure everything was within the weight limits: 21kg for our single hold bag and 7kg max per person for hand luggage. They hadn’t checked the carry-on on the way up but we decided to err on the side of caution. We were glad we had done so when, as we were waiting at the gate to board, one of the crew members walked along the line with a pull-along scale asking each passenger to place their cabin bags on it. At least one of our fellow passengers was obliged to check his bag, and pay AUD 40 for the privilege.

Our flight was mostly uneventful, although I question why a six-year old feels it necessary to recline his seat on a two hour flight. Especially if he’s in the seat in front of me. Rant over. We arrived safely at Brisbane and collected our bag before heading for the train station. It was rush hour in Brisbane when we arrived, so we didn’t want anyone to drag themselves through that traffic to collect us when there was a direct train from the airport to Helensvale.

We were fortunate enough to find a train due to leave in 8 minutes sitting at the platform waiting for us so we ensconced ourselves in the carriage, signed on to the Queensland Rail WiFi service, and relaxed for the 80 minute journey. We were picked up at the station and were back at V&G’s house in no time. Over a lovely dinner of roast chicken and salad, we forced them to listen to our dive reminiscences before fatigue eventually overtook us and we retired to bed.

On Tuesday, a farewell dinner had been planned for the evening with V&G, their children and partners, and the grandchildren. During the day, the four of us went up to Mount Tamborine, Queensland’s first National Park, declared in 1908. We took a walk down to the Witches’ Falls lookout point where it became apparent that this part of Queensland has experienced less recent rainfall than the north.

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The falls had dried to a mere trickle. One bonus of the walk, however, was the opportunity to see a kookaburra.DSC_0778

We also encountered a termite mound just off the path that appeared to have suffered some damage. The termites were hard at work trying to repair it, which meant a tasty meal for any passing lizard.

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We made our way back up to where we had parked the car and drove to Eagle Heights hotel for a bite of lunch with a view over the whole of the Gold Coast. The air was a bit hazy but the high-rise buildings of Surfers Paradise 22km distant were clearly visible. Temperatures were in the low 30s, so after lunch we drove back to Helensvale and had time to jump in the pool to cool off before the rest of the family arrived.

Once everyone rolled in for the evening, we had a nice, relaxed dinner and a couple of glasses of wine. We chatted a little about the Australian concept of “long service leave” whereby employees who stay with the same employer for ten years are rewarded with eight weeks paid holiday. I remember my own tenth anniversary at work, when I received a signed letter from the CEO. On balance, I think I’d have preferred the eight weeks. At the end of the evening, we said goodbye to the younger generation. It’s always odd taking your leave of friends and relatives in Australia because you never know when or if, you’ll see them again. Although global travel is much more accessible now than it was on our first visit here back in 1995.

Wednesday dawned hot in Queensland (again). Ishbel was up and out early taking a last opportunity for some bird photography at Coombabah Lake. After deciding there wasn’t much going on there, she moved on to Oxenford Park and managed to get a couple of interesting shots.

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Once she got back, we finished our packing and V&G once again drove us off to Brisbane Airport’s domestic terminal for the next flight on our RTW schedule. We were off to Melbourne today. This time, we were travelling business class with Qantas with plenty of luggage allowance so none of the concerns we had with Jetstar on the Cairns side trip.

Arriving at Melbourne, we picked up our bags then, as instructed, called the rental desk of our car hire company, Ace Rentals. We had booked this car through a consolidator, Rentalcars.com, because of the highly competitive rate they offered. We had reserved a Nissan Qashqai and, after going through the formalities at the desk, I received my documentation and went out for the always compulsory walk around the car to inspect for damage. I was surprised at a couple of things on the documents themselves: the high mileage (over 65,000km) and the number of dings and scratches already identified. I was even more surprised at the very first thing I spotted on the car.

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We were driving to Adelaide and I wasn’t keen on a 1500km round trip with a gash like this on the sidewall of the tyre. I trotted back in to the desk and asked the young gentleman to come out and take a look. His verdict? “It doesn’t go all the way through, so it’s up to you if you want to take it.” I didn’t want to take it. We were offered a Mitsubishi ASX which was slightly smaller but had tyres I felt better able to rely on.

Having straightened this out, we hit the road. Time confusion was pervasive at this point. Victoria was one hour ahead of Queensland, so we had lost an hour on the flight. However, Adelaide is in South Australia which is a half hour behind Victoria, so a half hour ahead of Queensland. I had booked a motel at a town called Ararat which was about a two hour drive from Melbourne airport, but I hadn’t checked which state it was in, so I had no idea what time it would be when we got there. As luck would have it, it was still in Victoria, so we arrived just before 9:00pm. Reception there was scheduled to close at that time, so we just made it. We also discovered that the latest opening restaurant in town closed at 8:30pm. One takeaway was still open until 9:30pm so we grabbed a pizza from there after checking in. We drove up to collect it and were struck by how much the town looked like a scene from a movie set in the 1950s.

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We couldn’t even finish the pizzas and eventually just crashed out, looking forward to a good sleep before finishing the drive to Adelaide the next day.

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