So yes, Brisbane (pronounced "Briz bin" as opposed to "Briz bane". Which is still better than Cairns, which is pronounced without vowels whatsoever). We arrived with only minor incident yesterday. Although if you have to enter a major metropolitan city on a fixed time frame like, say, needing to have the rental car back by noon, hitting the city with an actual map is always useful.
The plan had been to leave Hervey Bay around 7:30 am. We'd been told it would take about three hours to make the drive to Brisbane. We allotted more time for the usual things to go wrong. Which they did. The first was heavy traffic around Gympie. But the most crucial was the inability to find a map of Brisbane. We diverted off the highway to hit an information centre on the way into the city and asked for a map. The woman behind the counter must have thought we were also looking for the Holy Grail or something. So after some stumbling about we decided to try town without a good map. We had a couple of vague ones courtesy of a Queensland road map and one in Lonely Planet, but that's it.
Naturally, we got lost. We never got spectacularly lost, but downtown Brisbane is not the easiest to get around for novices. Still, we managed to find the rental agency and deposited the car a scant 10 minutes late. For which they didn't bill us extra. So, we managed to drive about 10 days in Australia without death, dismemberment or, more importantly, any damage to the car. I'd like to take all the credit for this, but no, I'm sure there would have been an incident if Cathy hadn't been reminding me to stop veering left, to slow down, watch for speed bumps, not to hit that kangaroo and other assorted warnings. And hell, I've almost grown to like roundabouts.
As for Brisbane, well, I think we kind of like it as well. Even more than Sydney. Now, this is brutally unfair, I realize. We hit Sydney tired, jetlagged out of our minds, feeling unbelievably grimy (note, when travelling for 20+ hours, pack a change of clothes in your carry-on. It's a life saver) and we just weren't impressed. I guess it's the same as going to London and expecting to see England. Sydney is sort of Australia, but not really. But we hit Brisbane on a high after finishing what I'm sure we'll look back on as two of the greatest weeks of our lives. What with the snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef, white water rafting, rainforest expeditions, a trip to one of the greatest beaches in the world and a personal guided tour of one of the strangest islands I've ever been on. So yeah, Brisbane gets that benefit.
Still, it's just a gut instinct, but I like the place. There's an energy here I like. It's more laid back and not as stuffy. I stand fully prepared to revise that as we're heading back to Sydney for four days on Tuesday. But right now, a thumbs up to the place.
As for Saturday's adventures, we spent most of the day at Warner Brothers Movie World down on the Gold Coast with my friends Chris and Lisa and their daughter Kitty. Which was a good time. We haven't really seen them in years and this was our first time meeting Kitty, who is a charmer. It was also amusing to watch Chris buy all these toys for "Kitty", but I don't think he was kidding anyone when buying that Aquaman play set.
One other amusing note, and this has more to do with the different way we do things. Our trip here has been very planned. And maybe some people like more flexibility with their travel, but we like things structured. We've done unstructured trips before and we end up feeling like we wasted a lot of time and missed out on doing some of the stuff we wanted. Not everyone could do things the way we do, but it works for us.
So I asked Chris today how they were getting to Sydney, since they were on their way on Sunday. And he says "Oh, I don't know. We'll get down there someway."
And he still didn't know when they dropped us off this evening. It's likely car or train, but they didn't know. Nor do they know exactly where they're staying in Sydney. And that's not me being critical, it's me being vastly amused by the vast gulf in the way we plan vacations. And really, as long as they have a good time and we have a good time, who cares how you get there.
Tomorrow we're off to pet koalas. Cathy had two goals coming to Australia. One was to swim at the Great Barrier Reef and see all the fish. The other was to hold a koala. We've been warned they smell and one will likely do terrible things on her clothing, but she doesn't care. Tomorrow is all about the koalas. Not sure what we're doing on Monday yet. And then Tuesday we get to spend all day on a train down to Sydney. A whopping 13 hours trip, but we're in first class, so that should ease the sting a bit.