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BRISBANE: 8th to 10th January

8th January

Another relaxing day awaited for us on the Gold Coast. It was an early start as we ploughed on up the Pacific Highway, which widened more and more as we approached the border with Queensland. On passing over the border, we gained an hour thanks to the change in time zone and decided to have a drive through the tourist trap known as Surfers Paradise. It may have been as such once, but now it’s a tourist monstrosity which would not look out of place on the Costa Del Sol or the Algarve.

We drove through. Slowly. The regular traffic lights and pedestrians trying to jump out from behind parked cars made things slightly difficult. Thankfully we emerged out the other side at the Wet n Wild water park that we’d been aiming for. Once again, we managed to meet up with Dave and Nat and settled down for a day of water-based fun. We tried our best at going on all of the rides available, but some of the queues were off putting. Another problem with Wet n Wild, which it had in common with every other water park I’ve been to, was that the concrete floors became scorching hot in the direct sunlight and did a great slow-cook job on the soles of our feet.

The highlights of the park were the plug-hole style ride where the four of us sat on a four man float and are thrown down a steep slide before being ‘sucked’ down the plug-hole. Another great ride was the race ride with 8 parallel slides and a finish line which monitored which lane finished first. This also excluded those who made false starts!! Dave proved to be easily distracted on the racer and thus finished last overall – securing him of the need to do a chicken impression.

Anyway, we stayed there most of the day before heading off in separate directions again, though both in the general direction of Brisbane.

Our room for the night was at a supposedly top quality backpackers where we had ordered a double room. Sure enough, in backpacker terms, the room was pretty luxurious. The hostel sat above a large bar which sold cheap meals – which we happily tucked into. After dinner we went for a short walk around the local area, found little of interest and returned to the hostel where we relaxed for a while before bed.

9th January

It was nearing the end of our Australian holiday, but we had one more thing that we wanted to do before we left – visit the world famous Australia Zoo. We drove North from Brisbane for just over an hour before reaching the queue for Australia Zoo which was located a good distance from anywhere. We parked up, got out and queued for entry. Straight away, we could tell that our experience at this zoo would be considerably different from that at any other zoo. Firstly, cut outs and pictures of the recently deceased Steve Irwin beamed out from walls, pillars, television screens and inanimate objects either with a big cheesy grin on his face, or with the standard “Crikey!” look that he tended to exhibit when he saw a crocodile. It was as if he’d never died. More likely, however, that we were witnessing the beginning of the deification of the Khaki-wearing goon. I wonder how the Gospel according to Saint Steve would read?

Still, we paid our money, picked up a programme and walked through the turnstiles. According to the programme, we were in for a few treats! Bindi and the Crocmen (Steve Irwin’s daughter and a quartet of camp, dancing imbeciles) were appearing at the Zoo that day, along with Terri Irwin. In addition to this, there were regular crocodile, bird and snake displays, opportunities to have your photo taken with koalas, snakes and birds and even the opportunity to get your photo taken with Steve ‘I’m still alive, honest’ Irwin! I’m guessing this photo wasn’t one of you alongside his rotting corpse, but was more likely to be some super-imposed contrived, expensive photo.

We walked around for a while and saw some koalas and crocodiles, trying desperately to avoid the Bindi and the Crocmen show. Just before it started, I received a call from Dave. Dave and Nat were sitting in the Croco-o-sseum waiting for the start of Bindi and the Crocmen – a show that they’d heard involved a lot of crocodile action rather than pre-pubescent camp singing and dancing. Well, Jen and I weren’t convinced, but went along anyway in the off-chance that some crocs would be on show. Bindi and the Crocmen were crap-tastic. The little, self-indulgent brat caterwauled and stumbled through some horrible exploitative song and dance routines whilst the escape routes were blocked by screaming children trying to replicate the dance moves. Terri Irwin looked on and clapped enthusiastically. I continued to wish for a swift end.

Carry on Crocmen! Bindi Irwin and the Camp-as-Christmas Crocmen. One of the four Crocmen is married, apparently.
A crocodile on display during the Crocodile Show. In the background on the right, Terri Irwin can be seen crouched down. Very toothy.... and that's just Terri Irwin!

After an interminably sickening half an hour, the show ended and on came the zoo wardens with the bird, snake and crocodile shows that we might possibly enjoy. The snakes came and went, and little happened. The start of the bird show was amusing as the head warden for birds came on and let some pigeons out which were supposed to land on people in the arena. Unfortunately, the birds just flew off with the warden following behind with his bird box. The crocodile show wasn’t much better – although it was presented by Terri Irwin. What really annoyed me was the hypocrisy of some of the show. One prime example was that one of the presenters droned on about how bad plastic bags are for wildlife and the environment and that we should never, ever use plastic bags. It annoyed me to notice at one of the zoo shops later on that plastic bags were used as a matter of course.

The rest of the zoo was positively fun. It was truly interactive with many exhibits that you could walk through and touch the animals. Alternatively, you could pay a bit more and actually get an 'animal experience'. We opted not to go on one of these excursions. Along with Dave and Nat, we walked around one end of the zoo. Dave and Nat had arrived at the zoo about an hour earlier than us and had already seen one half of the zoo. We walked around the other half of the zoo – past crocodiles and cassowaries, komodo dragons and kookaburras before Dave and Nat left the zoo. This was goodbye to them – they were off on the road North to Cairns whilst our end destination for the day was back in Brisbane. After saying goodbye for the umpteenth time in the past few days, they departed and Jen and I spent the rest of the afternoon looking around the other half of the zoo – stroking kangaroos, walking through the parrot enclosure and marvelling at the wombats.

Daddy and Mummy Clappid Bomwat
Cor! What a lovely pair! Some more pictures from Australia Zoo. From the top left, first of all there's a picture of Dave and Nat, then a picture of a furry wombat and finally a picture of Andy 'getting interactive' with a Black-Tailed Cockatoo on each wrist.

Once we'd been around all the sights the zoo had to offer, we jumped back in the car and headed back to Brisbane where we were staying at a different hostel than the night before. After changing and having a drink in the bar, we went out for dinner at a very unusual restaurant located nearby. The place was cryptically named the Garuva Hidden Tranquillity Restaurant and Bar. We obtained the address from the Lonely Planet guide and walked to the street location. Outside, there was no indication that there was anything within the old, victorian style building we were standing outside. A pair of double doors stood open, showing a corridor bounded by plant life within. Curious, and sure that we had the address, we walked inside. Once we were in, we stopped a hatch on the right hand wall. On the other side of the hatch was a waiter sitting at a cash till with a booking sheet. Fortunately, they had a table – but we would have to wait about half an hour. Still curious, we agreed. He led us through another pair of double doors where we emerged into a dimly lit room with Japanese style low tables, each surrounded by floaty white net curtains. He led us through some curtain surrounded passages between the tables up to the cocktail bar. Once again, the bar was somewhat unusual as it had no chairs, but a lot of low tables, bean bags and cushions. After a couple of drinks, we were led back into the dining room and were treated to a fantastic Japanese meal. Unusually, no prices were written on the menu, and the service was interminably slow. However, considering the aesthetics and how great the meal was, it turned out to be very reasonably priced at around $60.

Turn the lights on! A picture of the dimly lit Cocktail Bar in the Garuva Hidden Tranquillity Restaurant and Bar.
Within the restaurant area itself, sitting a table hidden away behind the net curtain which enclosed each dining table. Back of the net

We sat, drank and chatted the rest of the evening away before heading back to the hostel and bed.

10th January

It was finally the last day of our holiday – it seemed to me like we'd been away for ages. With only the morning left to do anything in, we opted for a walk around Brisbane to see if we could find anything of interest.

A very nice set of pipes The inside of the City Hall in Brisbane with what looks to be an organ in the main hall hidden away in the background.
An impressive piece of Antipodean architecture in Brisbane City Centre. I think that raised lettering on the building stated it was the Queensland Treasury Building. I'll come down on you like a ton of bricks

The walk took us around the city centre, past the city hall and around the CBD. We then passed through the botanical gardens, some of which was closed for repairs. From the gardens, we crossed over the Brisbane River and onto the South Bank. Here, we walked on a path which passed under a flower covered canopy along the river, past the fake beach and a Himalayan pagoda before crossing back over the river.

The flower-covered walkway that wends its way between the buildings on the South Bank of the Brisbane River. Bushey Arches
A nice bit of corn... On the cob... or not. Another piece of impressive Victorian era architecture in the Brisbane City Centre.

By this time, we were due to head to the airport. We arrived slightly early and had to wait for a while before checking in. Soon enough, we were back on the plane and heading home back over the Tasman to Wellington. Another holiday was over.

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