Back to Brisbane
We started with a bit of excitement on the flight back to Brisbane. Right after the plane door was closed, two gentlemen started screaming and shoving each other in the aisle and had to be pulled apart. The one man would not stop cursing and threatening the other four rows back, and it took a big guy about 15 rows back, who was ironically wearing a 'moving and storage' company t-shirt, to forcibly move this guy to the front corner of the plane until the police arrived.
After an hour of police removing the offenders, taking statements and rechecking flight plans we were on our way to Brisbane. We still aren't sure what started the conflict, but we were slightly happy that America doesn't have a monopoly on commercial flight drama.
The next morning, we started our weeklong journey south. Our first stop was a visit to Surfers Paradise, a city of towering skyscrapers, restaurants, and beach shops along the Gold Coast of Australia. To me it felt like Myrtle Beach meets Miami. It had the tourist feel that comes with beach shops and burgers joints, but added luxury hotels, condos, and shopping malls as well.
Thai and his wife Diamond hosted us here. Thai was an engineering coworker of mine, and had been retired here for just a few months. They had a beautiful condo with amazing views of the city, inter-coastal waterway, and ocean. They both treated us like royalty when we arrived, touring us around town, taking us to Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, and putting us up in a room looking out over the ocean. The wildlife sanctuary was impressive, with plenty of Aussie animals (Koalas and Kangaroos most importantly), and lots of interactive animal fun. We capped the evening at an amazing Vietnamese Restaurant, and shared stories of our travels. We cannot thank them enough for the hospitality they showed us while touring us around their new "Paradise."
After Surfer’s Paradise, we continued south on the M1 toward Sydney. Over the next 5 days we stopped in many villages and coastal towns along the shore. Most of this time was spent drinking coffee or watching Surfers on quiet beaches. Here are a few highlights along the way.
A town a bit overwhelmed with backpackers, we enjoyed a great walk around the Cape Byron Lighthouse. It's the easternmost point of mainland Australia, and we saw a school of dolphins catching waves in the ocean below. The town was a bit busy for our liking, even in the off season, but it has very walkable downtown with accommodation, restaurants, and the beach nearby.
Bellingen was a village slightly inland. We stayed at Backpackers hostel with a beautiful back porch and views of the mountains and sunset. There was a strange hallway full of pictures of nude people. After dozens of hostels, we've learned that there is no limit to their decorating creativity. We walked and had dinner at 5 Church Street, where I had a pulled pork sandwich. We've had BBQ a few times on the trip, and while it's not flavored quite the same as home, it still holds its own.
We called a surf school and had a spontaneous early morning surf lesson in Coffs Harbour. Lee Winkler taught us the basics of standing up and catching a wave, and we were experts in no time. We were wishing we had more permanent beach access, because we both had a blast.
Our stop in Nelson Bay coincided with Game 1 of the State of Origin rugby match. It’s a yearly three game series between players from the two biggest states in Australia. We found a bar in town and watched New South Wales take on Queensland. We've caught bits of the game on the TV the last month, and it was easy to see there was some extra bad blood between these two teams. Jerrod Hayne had returned from a stint in the NFL, and NSW was excited to have him back, he's a bit of a hometown hero. We also started to understand the rules after an hour, something we cannot say about Aussie Rules Football (AFL). NSW beat up on Queensland 28-4, which was good being that we were currently in NSW.
With no plans our final day, we resorted to finding somewhere to get a drink. That seems to be the natural direction that free time takes us. We stopped at two wineries in Hunter Valley. It was a quiet weekday without another customer in sight, and we enjoyed trying a view varieties we hadn't heard of before. Verdelho and Semillon were our favorites, so we bought a bottle of each to bring home. Afterward, we stopped at Sabor, a dessert cafe with creations straight out of Master Chef. These desserts were $15-20 each, but each was an art piece. Amazing.
With a few other stops here or there, we rolled into Sydney, crossed the Harbour Bridge, and checked into our final city of the trip. Check out our literary below.
Chris & Taylor
Read our travel blog as we visit three continents in 2017.