Wednesday, February 5, 2014

6 February 2014 - Hotel Ibis Budget Brisbane Airport, Brisbane, Queensland

Budget says it all; you get what you pay for. We are squeezed into a coffin sized room with just enough space for two single beds (not two double or king singles as you might expect) and our Samoan suitcases, three already strapped up and piled ready for their journey across the Sea. The last one lies open ready to receive the last offerings tomorrow afternoon.

We were away from Bli Bli early this morning arriving at the Brisbane Toll Road office at Murrarie on the south side of the Gateway Bridge well before check in time. There we sorted out our toll dongle which we had safely sealed into an empty powdered- potato packet, after reading that aluminium foil was required for carriage to its final resting place. We also used the opportunity to link up our rental car to our toll account for the period we have it and came away all sorted thanks to the excellent service from the aging lady behind the counter. Mature staff should be valued more; this one is worth gold to her employers!

Still too early to check in to the hotel, we drove back across the river and up to Chermside, spending some time wandering around the wonderful Westfield shopping centre there. The centre is very modern and very smart, as well as being one of the largest visited for some time and certainly far superior to the one closer to the hotel at Toombul, which we checked out later in the day with a view to dining out tonight.

Finally we headed back down to the hotel and checked in with our massive amount of luggage and bits and pieces that were obviously useless in the circumstances. The rooms do not have tea making facilities; in fact the use of kettles and cooking appliances is forbidden. We stored some of our food in the communal fridge, an arrangement that is reminiscent of camp kitchens and noted the communal dining arrangement where we will probably have our breakfast tomorrow morning. Indeed this is a budget hotel and should be avoided if one is after a pampered holiday.

But this post is my swan song, although a swan is not migratory and we are likely to be back again because Australia is too wonderful and too big to do justice in just three years, although in all fairness I should subtract the time we spent back in New Zealand catching up with family; four months in all, which means that we actually only spent thirty two months travelling around the country, another reason why we will have to be back.

I shall miss the flora and fauna, especially the wonderful birdlife, the big open vistas, long roads, big skies, wonderful people and so much more. Yes, we will indeed be back, but for now, this is over and out.

Go well, and do as we have done, take the plunge; you only live once!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

5 February 2015 - Riverside Caravan Park, Bli Bli, Sunshine Coast, Queensland

Tuesday morning saw us up early, long before the alarm clock went off; Chris had had very little sleep although his eye was looking a lot better, thank goodness. We packed lunch into the eski, and set off away from Bli Bli, west through the lush coastal valleys, back out onto the Bruce Highway and joined the heavy traffic heading south. We left the highway at Caboolture, now all too familiar, and called into the Pawn Shop we had managed to off load the very first of our discards. Alas, today was not as successful; we received about one third of what we had so very recently paid for the solar panel and accessories purchased with a view to storing the rig. Still, better than nothing, I suppose.

Back on the highway, we received a text from Gary from Darwin; his flight was delayed and he would not be in until midday. As we neared the north eastern outskirts of Brisbane, I recalled the existence of the Boondall Wetlands Park, a park we had visited on our last stay in Brisbane, part of the Mountain to Coast Greenway. We stopped by, not a grand detour at all, because even as one walks through the casurarinas and melaleucas, glimpses and sound of the traffic barreling through on the Gateway Motorway can be caught from the cycle path, a kilometre or so of which we walked to stretch our legs and to fill in time. Back in the car we ate half of our lunch and drained the thermos, still far short of midday but we could well imagine our meal routine would be shot if we did not attend to this now.

Resuming our route, we called by the hotel we are booked into for the last two nights before we fly out, the first of these nights really quite unnecessary the way things have panned out, but how were we to know? It looked alright despite the rather dismal reports I had since read on Trip Advisor, but it is in the middle of a light industrial zone, handy to the airport and more or less inaccessible to anyone but those who come by car or shuttle bus. We spied a big new shopping centre, Skygate, I think, but this too seems to be just as inaccessible to all but the motorist. God forbid that we will be limited to eating hotel food! Us, the self-caterers from way back!

We were still far too early to meet Gary but parked up in the Domestic Airport car park anyway, a mistake because we could have saved ourselves a whole lot of dosh if we had hung around the Boondall instead. Airport car parks are rip offs all over the world, are they not?

So we waited and waited for the delayed Jetstar flight from Darwin, and finally he came through, a “small chap aged fifty eight, wearing jeans”. We introduced ourselves then all set off to the rental car pick up area. I had booked this the previous day but not received the confirmation and detail in time by email, however a quick telephone call that morning had confirmed it was all on track. I had followed this up twice more when we were delayed, but at no time understood that we were to go in a shuttle back to their office to sign up and be sorted for the hire. This did not go down well, however I grabbed Chris’s Queensland licence, kissed him goodbye and jumped in the van, hoping it would all pan out.

Chris and Gary had to go via a place in Southbank to collect a draw fitting for the landcruiser which we all imagined would take them an hour or so. I had my water bottle, the newspaper and a book so was happy enough to fill in the time. However by the time I untangled the mess at Ace Rentals that I had made and set off across the river and west to Cooper Plains, without a navigational device, just a list of roads scribbled on a scrap of paper and the memory of the map, they were at the transport company waiting for me.

Farewell to our well travelled wagon
Paperwork all round was attended to efficiently and the cheque in the bank on the journey back into the city where we dropped Gary to do some shopping at David Jones for his city-shopping-starved wife. The whole business had been smooth and Gary had proved a delight to do business with. All was well in the world!

We headed back to the Sunshine Coast, stopping at a roadhouse for an ice-cream and a change of drivers; Chris slept the rest of the way home. Over a dinner of bacon, eggs and beans, complimented by a bottle of fine wine, we congratulated each other on having finally sold the rig, albeit at knockdown prices. And in case you are wondering what we eventually did sell it all for; we made a loss of about one third of the cost, and that is all I will say here.

This morning dawned with stormy skies, not at all promising for the last load of laundry planned. I hung it all out and we headed into Maroochydore to the Queensland Transport Authority to hand the landcruiser number plates in. Alas, Wednesday is a late opening for this office, unbeknown to the twenty or so other folk who had turned up for whatever reason. Finally we were served but were told the refund of registration and third party insurance would be mailed out by cheque. A fat lot of good that is!!! And that is what we said although Chris added a few other words. We have had to contact our niece on the Gold Coast to attend to the wind up of this matter. Unlike this stupid antiquated government department, our insurance company has been brilliant and so we are almost sorted as regards vehicle business.

The rest of the day, after dropping yet another load of stuff to the Lifeline shop, including boxes of tools, has been spent packing, weighing, discarding and repacking; all very upsetting although I am trying to think positively about having had to discard half my wardrobe. I will have to buy some new clothes! Actually that was something I had hoped I would not have to do for some years now I am no longer working.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

3 February 2014 - Riverside Caravan Village, Bli Bli, Sunshine Coast, Queensland

Sleep continued to elude us, not least my poor husband, because it is he on whom I lean, rather than the reverse; I am simply the ideas person. A blood vessel had popped or done something equally hideous the day before, no doubt brought on by lack of sleep and stress, however this, his dark red eye bothers me more than him so we have not chased medical attention.

We spent the whole of Sunday packing and discarding, repacking and more discarding, a chore that seemed to go on and on and on. Two days ago I had dared to suggest that if we were required to leave immediately, we were organised enough to be ready within two hours. Rubbish! I say on reflection and in retrospect; two days at least. What a mammoth task this has turned into, and yet, and yet, thousands are relocating from one part of the world to another every day and do I hear them complaining?

We stayed on Jess’s case all day, still hoping a photo of The Cheque would appear. Her excuse was that she had sent it through to our telephone number. We quickly put her right there; our cellphone copes only with texts and voice calls, and really only the latter successfully. So no email came.

I woke before the birds this morning and would have enjoyed the dawn chorus had my head not been in a whirl of anticipation. As I later said to Chris, it is always I who am the optimist and he, the pessimistic curmudgeon, although I normally can keep my own mood above his, but of late, I have allowed his negative thoughts and expectations to creep over mine like a dark cloud.

We were up about six o’clock, breakfasted and packed up by eight. We called into the camp office on the way back from the newsagent and asked when our cabin would be ready. The manageress sent her husband up to turn the fridge on and half an hour later Chris drove the landcruiser up to the other end of the caravan park, full of our residual possessions. I was left to walk; no room for me, my computer and handbag, however the exercise did me good.

Jess phoned to ask if we could deliver the caravan to them after all; this was a positive bit of news. We found ourselves at their home soon after 11 am, almost an hour early, and realised too that we were less than a kilometre from where we had embarked on our travels three years ago after setting ourselves up at our friends Neil and Pauline’s; or at least as the crow flies. A strange coincidence and perhaps a good omen at last. But then that would have been to dismiss the other little gem that had appeared unto me yesterday afternoon; a delightful dragon had emerged from the scrub beside our caravan and stood in the sunshine, poised for escape should the need arise. It has been a while since we last saw one, so this was a little joy for the day. And if I was a superstitious person, yes, all good omens.

Goodbye to our travelling home.
At midday, Maria, Jess and Uncle all arrived; bank cheques in hand and all full of genuine love and honesty. Even Grandad emerged on his walker to sing the praises of the caravan that they had got for a bargain price! There was no scam involved, just a warm fuzzy family who do things in their own sweet time. Before we knew it, we were homeless and with a bit fat bank account; fat by our standards anyway.

We dropped another pile of goodies at the Salvos and made our way home, that is, our temporary cabin home. We telephoned Gary in Darwin to tell him it was all go whereupon he told us he would be arriving at Brisbane at 11.30 am tomorrow morning and would be pleased if we could call into a place on Southbank where he could pick up a shelf fitting for the landcruiser, before we head on to the transporter people in South East Brisbane. It is all go! I have a rental car booked and rather than uproot ourselves to another “home” in Brisbane before taking up our pre-arranged hotel accommodation on Thursday, we will stay on here at Bli Bli and drive back. It is not too far, or at least, not by Australian standards.

So I might have said that I look forward to a good long sleep tonight, but we will have to be up bright and early to fight the traffic on the Bruce Highway and deal with the Brisbane traffic; some of which I will have to drive in myself. But matters are on the up and up, at last!