As Rainman does, we find that our favourite airline is Qantas, and we flew with them from Tokyo to Brisbane. We had applied for our eVisas from home (they are free) and again got through the airport without any problems. Outside customs there are counters where you can buy sim-cards, and since we were going to be in Australia for a while and wanted to access social media on the move, we bought two 10GB data cards with unlimited national calls and SMS for around AU$ 25,- each.
After a short car drive, we arrived at our base in Ormiston, part of Redland City and close to Cleveland, a small suburb outside Brisbane. With a swimming pool, sundeck and day temperatures in the mid to late 30C, we were all set for a long period away from the cold, grey and wet Denmark. We unpacked essentials, rested and then ventured into Brisbane to meet up with the remaining family for a drink at the Riverbar, before a nice meal at the seafood restaurant Jellyfish in the best possible company.
We were still waking up relatively early every morning- typically between 4 and 5am. It gave us the opportunity to work a little online or to watch some of the Premier League football games live! It was initially a strange feeling watching football at 5 in the morning – over a cup of coffee rather than a beer, but I quickly got used to it.
It was also good to get a swim in early. At 7am, the neighbour’s dog was let out, and he objected loudly to the fact I seemed to be drowning whenever I swam lanes, so that was best done before then. The day after we arrived, we went to one of the many fitness centres located in and around Cleveland. As we knew we were going to be spending some time at the Gold Coast too, it was important to find a centre with branches both places, and we had chosen GoodLife, as they also seemed to have a substantial number of Les Mills classes on offer, not least BodyCombat. I always enjoy taking BodyCombat classes at new places when I am travelling. Obviously, the whole concept is for the class to be familiar (similar) no matter where in the world you take it, but there are always local variations in style and presentations that can inspire to improve my own instructing. A couple of differences I noticed: In Australia for IP reasons, they can’t use the original tracks but have to use covers. That makes the music OK for the purpose, but not as good as the originals. Class exercise always draw more women than men, that’s true for Denmark too, but even more so in the classes I took in Australia. I managed to do six BodyCombat classes in the 3 weeks, and half of the time, I was the only man out of 30+ participants. Other differences were very BodyCombat technical, so I will spare you. The GoodLife fitness centre chain are open 24/7 – they have staffed hours, and when unmanned, members let them self in with a key-card. That seemed to work pretty well. The walk from Orbiton to Cleveland took us through some woods in which, there were known to be koalas. This time, however, our third trip to Australia, we never saw a single koala. Granted, we saw many other animals and we did not exactly go looking for them, but still… Cleveland Marina is a clear indication this is not exactly the redneck outback. Many big and beautiful yachts moored at the piers, and nice cars were parked, waiting for their owners returning back from their trips at sea. Coffee shops serve full breakfasts, all kind of coffees and a wonderful range of smoothies and milkshakes, and on a couple of occasions we made the walk to have breakfast out.
We went on a day-trip to Stradie (Stradbroke Island). A 1-hour boat journey across the bay, and we were ready to explore the island that with its shops and cafés had a kind of Maui/San Francisco feel about it – relaxed. We took the North Gorge Walk from which you at all times had an incredible view over the ocean or the gorge. On the two-kilometre walk, out and back, we saw sharks, rays, dolphins and turtles. We also saw a number of birds sitting in trees and a few eagles in the air probably waiting to make them lunch. Speaking of which, there are great places to eat and drink around Point Lookout! We had however brought our own lunch, which we enjoyed at the picnic tables by Brown Lake. Brown Lake, towards the west of the island, is big enough to have a beach, and we started what we have since made a regular ritual of writing Hans’ name in the sand as we are settling down.
Not all islands accept their island fate. Take King Island visible from Wellington Point. that daily fight to retain contact with solid land. Another day, while the tide was out, we walked on dry sand all the way out to the island. It’s worth paying attention to the tide table. Do not be a science denier; it might still work for the 45th US President, but trust me, the tide will come in, when it is well and ready to do so, and a trip wading back to land in shark-infested water with potholes to the right and left of you, is more excitement than I would volunteer for. Therefore, we stayed only a short while and made it back to Wellington Point and an ice-cream well before the tide came back in.
We would be celebrating the Christmas Holidays, Australia style, but on Christmas Eve, when Scandinavians have their main celebration, our hosts had put up a full Danish Christmas Dinner, complete with all the “right” food, including rice pudding. The fact that I got the whole almond and the prize, was probably due to the fact I personally ate at least half of the whole bowl – even if it took me till boxing day to complete the task. The evening was just one of hundreds of efforts everyone was making to ensure we had the best possible stay. We are so grateful for having friends and family like that!
The stay in Brisbane incorporated a stag night! 16 guys, starting out with lunch, going on a pub-crawl only “pausing” to take in a Brisbane Roar football game before finishing off the pub crawl in style… what could go wrong? Well not a lot, really. Having said that, though, I have, at a ripe old age of 56, been to quite a few bars, clubs and pubs in my life, and I’ve managed to avoid ejection. During the ½ pub-crawl before the football game, we managed to be asked – ever so politely, mind you – to leave. Twice! I think it was mainly for being loud – there were some of the guys with football referee whistles, the blowing of which for some inexplicable reason seemed to annoy other patrons of the bars. The football game, frankly, was awful. Not only not played very well by either side, but Brisbane Roars were behind 0-2 at half time. The best thing about the game was the Roar’s Danish player Thomas Kristensen who after the game brought a signed jersey for the stag and posed for pictures with some of the inebriated company. What a trooper!
Outdoor sports is a big thing in Australia, the weather and the country lend itself well to activities such as football, rugby, golf, swimming and sailing. Being a Commonwealth country there’s also cricket – a peculiar Marmite sport; typically either hated or loved. A tournament called Big Bash has gained momentum. Based on 20-overs games with a lot of extra activities and entertainment thrown in, it has succeeded in appealing to the younger generation who, I otherwise suspect, would never have been caught present at a cricket game. We went to the Brisbane Heat v. Sydney Thunder game. Due to rain it was reduced to 17 overs, Sydney were batting first and managed a 4-149 against which Brisbane seemed to be struggling until the very last over, where, through a couple of great hits, they won the day and the game, 4-153. The game was OK for result excitement, though I don’t think I am going to make it a habit attending cricket games. One section in the stands was a pool, making it possible to watch the game while floating in a swimming pool. Can’t see it catching on at my local football ground.
While in Brisbane we had 2 embedded holidays. We spent around a week at the Gold Coast/Surfers Paradise and later a couple of days in Hunter Valley, New South Wales. Those trips will be covered in the next installment of my travel log.
We had brought ½ of Hans’ ashes with us to be scattered over the ocean. The plan from back home was to do this on January 1st 2018 – exactly a year after we lost him. New Year ended up being very emotional, a marker in time where it was natural to evaluate what we had been through in 2017. It goes without saying, that the year 2017 was the worst year of our lives. That is, our lives turned from ordinary happy lives before 2017 to disaster from New Year. Having said that, it was the life crushing devastating event of Hans’ death, which made it so. The year itself, oddly as it might sound, was remarkable in its own right. We experienced such an outpouring of love and support, not just from old and close friends, but also from every corner of our network. Many of our friendships have been cemented and we have formed new strong friendships. There is a lot of good in a lot of people out there. When on New Year’s Day it came to the crunch, we couldn’t muster the strength to do it. In the end we left it to the morning of the last full day, we were in Australia. We were up before sunrise and went to the Ocean outside Wellington Point. As we stood with the urn, taking in the spectacular sunrise, a sea eagle made a casual swoop past us, getting a lot closer than I have ever experienced them. We scattered the ashes, and stood for a while as another milestone was passed and then made our way back for the point. Astonishingly, the sea eagle from before came back and made another close fly-by.
The whole Australia trip with Hans’ ashes would always be very emotional, and it was. We had feared coming up to the 1st of January and the scattering of the ashes. As expected, it had been hard and emotionally draining, but we also felt somehow relieved. We were now past first occurrence of every special day: Birthdays, Christmas, New Year, Wedding Day, death day… It had not been easy, but we were through it. As we packed our suitcases and headed towards the airport for the stop in Vietnam, it felt it would from now on be somehow easier working on establishing a new life, a new future.