I was more upset about saying goodbye to my cat than I was excited about the impending trip. Sometimes when I book an adventure far ahead the pre-trip excitement loses momentum several weeks before and although always glad for a break from the routines of day to day life as a working adult, I spent the prior couple of days in a stressful whirlwind attempting to do everything I needed to do ahead of a long break away. So even at the airport where I usually start to feel the excited anticipation of heading abroad, I was distracted. I had a 38 day Australian adventure ahead of me and I just wasn’t feeling it.
When I’d discovered back in May 2014 that there would be a work-related conference in the beautiful Gold Coast of Australia’s Queensland, I’d made a note of the dates and then got on with my life. When it opened for sale I booked a place, got a cheap one-way plane ticket to the nearest airport and left it at that. The rest would sort itself out later. But what in my mind was originally going to be a 4 day conference followed by a few days on the Sunshine Coast to the north, morphed in my mind to a 5.5wk extravaganza and eventually I had internal flights arranged and an action packed itinerary to fulfil.
In the Gold Coast it gets dark around 6pm give or take all year round and the sun appears to almost drop out the sky at a surprising rate such that as we landed at Coolangatta airport near Queensland’s southern border with New South Wales, I’d commented to my partner that the sun was still high in the sky, only to get through customs, collect our bags and walk outside into dusk. It is incredible. We drove to our accommodation in Broadbeach in growing darkness. For many people, the Gold Coast is all about Surfers Paradise: the loud, brash and in-your-face party and beach city who’s high rises feature in many photographs of the region. I’d visited before on New Years day a few years ago and found the vibe not to my taste. But the beach here spreads for many kilometres to the south and as you extract yourself from the crowds at Surfers, the beach quickly becomes less crowded and more serene. Our apartment was within easy reach of a myriad of dining options in Broadbeach, which is just south of Surfers. Over the course of the next few days I really came to like Broadbeach and would happily stay there again.
Whilst my partner got to kick off his holiday there and then, enjoying the region’s beaches, shopping and theme parks, I had an early morning start at the conference, heading off in dawn for a 6.45am start, emerging again in dusk around 7pm. The second day I again had a 6.45am start but finishing this time at a more reasonable 5.30pm, meant being able to make use of the evening. Driving out to the outer suburbs we met with friends and headed to a night market near them called Helensvale Night Quarter. Being a Saturday night it was packed, and having been well catered to at conference for 2 days, it was slightly wasted on me as I wasn’t really hungry. But I enjoyed it nonetheless, drooling over the endless food options, following my nose and breathing it all in. I found some space in my stomach to fit some food including as much of a delicious but slightly sickly cookie ice cream sandwich as I could manage. At the far end of the market was a large barn with a bar and a stage where a reggae band were playing. It was an immensely enjoyable night and one of those places you’d only discover with a local: a real gem. To top it off, the moon was an incredible colour on the drive home, although it was impossible to get a decent photograph of it.
A third early start was at least a slight change of pace. Instead of a morning lecture, I was up for a charity run. Not being a runner, I’d signed up for the 2.5km beach walk and after watching the sunrise over Broadbeach, it was finally time to set foot on the beach. Sharing the beach with locals out walking the dog or taking a morning stroll, our group of competitors pounded past the waves as the sky and buildings changed colour with the sharply rising sun. It was simply beautiful. After a day full of more eating and more learning, we met up with more friends near Brisbane. Unfortunately I was pretty shattered by this point and it was all too brief.
The fourth morning I took myself back to the beach walking almost the whole way to Surfers Paradise before doubling back. The light was incredible and I noticed with envy how many locals were out for a morning walk or jog. After moving out of my parent’s home in 2006, I started my life of independence living by the coast, constantly walking the promenade or nearby beach. Sometimes I just yearn to hear the sound of crashing waves and I could totally see the benefit of living in such a place. After the closing of conference, my partner and I made use of the main street of eateries for dinner although I was very much feeling like I’d eaten a year’s worth of food in just 4 days. Thankfully it wasn’t much of a walk to waddle home.
Whilst for most of the delegates the conference was done and dusted, I’d signed up for a private trip to Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary in Currumbin to the south of Broadbeach. I have mixed feelings about zoos and wasn’t sure what to expect. At its core the sanctuary has a wildlife hospital where injured animals are treated and rehabilitated. Surrounding this is a large expanse of either walk through zones or fenced exhibits with a myriad of native wildlife. For all that I love about Australia, it is its wildlife that excites me time and time again. I much prefer to see it in the wild so whilst I could see the value of the sanctuary for allowing children to see these critters, it wasn’t for me. However the whole point of us going there was to get a private tour of the wildlife hospital and that was incredible. Seeing and hearing about what work they do was awe inspiring.
Afterwards I took a quick walk to Currumbin beach before we were taken back to Broadbeach and finally I could count myself as being on holiday. Having been to Surfers before, there was only 1 thing I wanted to do there this time and that was to go up to the observation deck of the distinctive Q-deck tower. Last time we’d taken a spectacular helicopter flight and from both ground level and in the air, this building stands tall, a perceived giant amongst a skyline of skyscrapers. We took the tram from Broadbeach to Surfers and turned up to discover the entire observation deck was closed for a private function. I couldn’t believe it and struggled to hide my annoyance. In the end, we wandered around in the heat of the day exploring nearby parks and the busy waterfront of Surfers before catching the tram back to Broadbeach. We took a drive up the coast before heading home, enjoying our final meal in Broadbeach.
The next day we were headed north. Having been declined entry the day before we headed back to the Q-deck, getting up this time to see the fabulous 360o view from near the top. A little annoyed that the lower morning sun didn’t work as well for photos as the higher afternoon sun the day before would have been, I had to push my petty annoyance aside and get on with enjoying myself. It was hard to stay irked for long with such a view.
Last time we were in Queensland, we’d stopped at Australia Zoo on route to Noosa and that had been the working plan this time around too. But I managed to convince my partner to go somewhere different and heading north up the Bruce Highway looking at the immense queues of traffic jammed southbound, we took the Steve Irwin Highway and followed the signs for the Glass House mountains…