The Blackall Range

The Blackall Range
Montville, Australia

Montville, Australia

After leaving Mum at home all day yesterday with Aidan, I felt she deserved a good day out, preferably somewhere as far away from the Gold Coast as possible.

We took the Blackall Range tourist route from Mapleton through to Montville and Maleny. The drive up through the hills and into the cool tropical mountain air was a relief after we kept the “M” theme and drove through Maroochydore for a quick look. The last time I was up here I stayed in Maroochydore with one of my best mates back in 1993. It didn’t seem so big then, but the place is huge, full of malls and apartment blocks.

The drive up into the mountains was fantastic, and a relief after the motorways of the previous day. We spent half the day in Montville, an unabashedly “olde” tourist trap for elderly folk who wear sensible slacks and hush puppies. It reminded me of Sassafras, one of my favourite little towns in the east of Melbourne – chocolate stores, crafts, cuckoo shops, lots of cafes. I didn’t mind. In fact I found the elusive blank dice I was after in a games store there and Mum and Jo had a great time in the Clock Shop and the antique stores. If we hadn’t forked out so much money the day before, Jo may have gone crazy here.

We ran out of time after waiting too long for a cheesy lasagna and chips (we should have stuck to sandwiches), so we didn’t see much of the other towns. But I was determined to take a look in at the castle at Landsborough. Rosa was disappointed we couldn’t go in as she caught a glimpse of a fairy kingdom, but it was getting late by this stage.

I took Jo out for Thai later in the night as a belated wedding anniversary. There’s something about eating Thai outside in the blamy night weather. I think it’s called drunkenness. The beer went straight to my head and Jo had some sparkling wine which had the same effect. A good way to wind down before leaving home the next day.

We had seen a lot in a week. In fact, we only went to the beach once! With Mum around, you don’t sit around the pool drinking ginger beer (though I did once or twice). We pushed it a bit *************, and there’s always teething problems mixing the families, but we enjoyed ourselves. The weather is beautiful – I can see why retired Victorians get up here quick smart – and the Sunshine Coast has a relaxed feel that refuses to change. It was good to come back.

Sorry, no pleasant Dream in this World

Sorry, no pleasant Dream in this World
Gold Coast, Australia

Gold Coast, Australia

Well, that was a crappolla of a day.

Coincidentally, our Queensland holiday came about when Rosa and I saw the Spongebob Flypants ride on YouTube and I promised her we’d go one day we’d go to Dreamworld. She kept pestering me, I kept on streaming the Dreamworld rides and eventually we booked the flight with our big mission being an awesome day out in Dreamworld.

I got up at 5am, then drove Jo, Rosa and Jenny to the other side of Brisbane. It took two and a half hours of flat-out driving to get there. By this time I was knackered and certainly didn’t feel like being tossed around on the Claw. And I really didn’t feel like paying $280 entry for the four of us.

We were all pretty testy early on, actually. Rosa started crying and refused to go one any of the rides, I chickened out and went on some kids rides with Jenny and I think Jo resigned herself to escorting Rosa around the entire day.

I think Dreamworld can be summed up by Jenny and my wait for the roller coaster. There didn’t seem to be that many people in the park, yet we still had to wait 30 minutes. In that time I watched a guy in red bathers go up and down the pipeline waterslide in the “Whitewater World” next door about ten times. Man, I’d have given anything to get my money back so I could have gone to the water park. Water slides rule. You actually feel like you’re putting some effort into hurtling down a water slide, as opposed to getting strapped in like a baby to a giant claw that throws you around the place until you want to vomit.

Things got worse when we waited 45 mins for the Mick Doohan “Motocoaster” ride that lasted all of 30 seconds. Seriously, it cannot be worth standing and waiting for this. It started raining about this time, and Jo and I were both seriously over it. At least Rosa went out on a high. I coaxed her into getting on the Spongebob ride and, of course, she loved it and went on about three times in a row.

I couldn’t face the Tower of Terror (the most epic of the rides) and had to face up to the fact that, at 36, I’m just too old for thrill rides. I just don’t enjoy them at all.

On the way home Rosa declared this was the best day of the holiday. I didn’t say anything, and just drove the long way back home through an absolutely awesome tropical thunderstorm. I must have been close to becoming hysterical, because I started to laugh at Jenny’s constant chatter and couldn’t stop as I tried to steer the Mitsubishi through the torrential rain. I nearly went off into the cane fields. At least the day ended on a high!

El Grande Pina

El Grande Pina
Nambour, Australia

Nambour, Australia

The first road stop fibreglass monstrosity I ever visited was The Big Lobster in South Australia. I was only seven, but I still remember the flaking red lobster, pincers outstretched, on the long stretch of road to Melbourne. Mum bought me a pencil with a plastic lobster stuck on the end, and I kept that pencil a long, long time.

But the king of the “big” tourist attractions has to be The Big Pineapple. I’ve been there before, and tried to make it sound like Disneyland when explaining it to Rosa.

Before we reached Nambour we took a detour to the Eunmundi Saturday market. I saw it in a flyer and when you are travelling with three women, you’ve got to go the market at least once.

It is a seriously impressive market. We spent an hour on one side of the road in the smaller market, and it was enough for me. Luckily it seemed to emphasise food. Ice cold ginger beer, nougat with pineapple pieces, German sausages and mango slurpies beat tie die and pottery every time. Aidan got a wooden toy, Rosa bought a Disney kaleidoscope and I was very happy with four bars of nougat.

We raced through the larger market. There were some original artistic gifts here. I liked the snooker cues carved from wood, the kites and the spray painted kitchen aprons. It got a bit hot carrying Aidan so I was glad to leave, but you could get away with the Christmas shopping here.

The Big Pineapple, unlike almost everything else touristy in Queensland, hadn’t changed at all. In fact it seemed to have come ever so slightly dilapidated. The pineapple was flaky and the display inside dusty and broken. It even had “Pineapple” misspelled from sometime back in 1976. The train trip through the plantation cost about 15 pineapples, so we went the big ice-cream instead. I was just glad of the breeze. Rosa wasn’t too disappointed. It is amazing what over-enthusiasm can achieve.

There’s probably better “big” tourist attractions than the Pineapple. The Big Banana, perhaps, or the Big Guitar. But it’s iconic.

Noosa is still a nice place to be

Noosa is still a nice place to be
Noosa, Australia

Noosa, Australia

Mum and I went to Noosa on a tour way back during Expo 88. I remember the beach, but I don’t remember the town being this busy! The coastal road to Noosa is a meandering, one lane jaunt but Noosa itself is such a bustling place full of new homes and units and surfers.

We headed out of town to the Noosa National Park. Great place to escape the midday sun and the crowds from the Jazz Festival. A walk through the gum trees isn’t what I thought Noosa was about. We finished it watching long board riders on the rocky back beach overlooking the park.

Made a side visit to some of Mum’s friends up from Melbourne at the caravan park. Stayed too long, but it’s difficult when you’ve got Mum on one side enjoying a cup of tea while I’m out kayaking up the river and then on the other hand Aidan is tired, Rosa is crying with an ant bite and Jo is furious. I got us out of there an hour too late. Enough for Jo to be angry for the rest of the day. The pitfalls of travelling with two families.

It became almost oppressive with the heat trying to find parking and carrying Aidan around. This was the week after winter had ended. Unsure what summer is like (I’ve only been here in September) but it must take a good while to get used to. Luckily it clouded over in the afternoon.

Australia Zoo – Crickey! It was Really Fun!

Australia Zoo – Crickey! It was Really Fun!
Beerwah, Australia

Beerwah, Australia

With Mum and Jenny with us there was no hanging around watching cable TV. Off we went in the Mitsubishi Starwagon (no horn, slips out of gear, but cheap) off to Australia Zoo.

I’m not a huge Steve Irwin fan, but he grew on me. When I first saw him on a British Awards show I had no idea who he was. Either did most Australians. But the rest of the world did. It took Aussies a long time to warm to him. Mainly because he was too enthusiastic. By the end I think we all realised he was genuine and it wasn’t some Crocodile Dundee inspired shtick. I was genuinely shocked when he died.

I’d heard good things about his Australia Zoo. Besides, it was a lot closer than the Gold Coast theme parks and Aidan and Jo were more likely to enjoy it. So we drove through the sugar cane and down the M1 past Aussie World and to the park.

It was really good. Spacious, green, well kept and despite the carpark being almost full, uncrowded. It was very warm, Rosa was cranky and Aidan had woken up at 5am, so we didn’t rush it.

The highlight was the hands on exhibits – feeding the kangaroos and the elephants. One took a grab at Aidan’s foot and left some black muck up to his shin. Aidan was perplexed. He enjoyed patting the kangaroos more. The croc show was painlessly short too. We stayed late and, after walking all day, glad to get back home.

The zoo must be one of the better private zoos. The keepers know their stuff, and the animals look happy enough with some really large, leafy enclosures.

On the Beach

On the Beach
Coolum Beach, Australia

Coolum Beach, Australia

It’s been a long time since I was last in Queensland. Seventeen years, in fact. I was up here with one of my best mates, Chris, just after high school. We spent a few weeks in Maroochydore with his family. I don’t remember much except the weather was overcast, I bought a Mambo T-shirt I still wear and I went so fast down a waterslide at Sea World I received a severe wedgie that took a few minutes to recover from.

I also remember we drove back home to Melbourne. I’ve never been in a car so long. His dad wanted to watch the Bathurst 500, so he had his wife sit a portable TV on her lap and every few minutes he’d glance over to see if Peter Brock was winning. He hit a flock of cockatoos during one long glance and we didn’t discover the dead birds wrapped around the bull bar until the next morning.

This time we were staying close by at Coolum Beach in an exceptionally nice five star apartment thanks to a contact at work. The family came up with Jenny and Mum. Aidan’s first time on a plane and I’m glad it was only an hour. He vomited everywhere and got the wriggles, but overall he was good.

There’s something about Queensland’s air I love, especially as Melbourne was extremely cold when we left. I know why retired people come up here to live. The early autumn sun was invigorating. At first I was worried that 21oC was the wrong side of pleasant, but it was hot. The first time I’d worn shorts and sandals in months. Fantastic.

Coolum Beach was quiet and not as built up as I thought. The beach is expansive and the locals look like they’re on a permanent holiday. It’s the sort of place where you feel OK wearing bathers in the supermarket.