The first time we left our Brisbane base was when we went for a week at the Gold Coast/Surfers Paradise. We were invited to stay at a luxury 10th floor apartment right on the beach with a balcony view over the ocean. In the most relaxing way we had quite a tight schedule for the whole week. Most days we still managed a walk along the beach, the destination typically being some nice café to have breakfast or brunch.
One day was set aside for a trip on a friend’s yacht. We were picked up from the pier in a dinghy and taken the short trip out to the yacht. We had remembered the Dramamine which proved to be completely unnecessary: Unfortunately for us, the yacht had been anchored tactically for prime viewing position of the New Year’s firework and thus our hosts were not inclined to take the boat out on the ocean risking loosing their place. So we enjoyed the luxury of the yacht safely anchored in shallow water. We did see (in)famous celebrities sail by and more excitingly wild dolphins very close to the boat, and since the fridge was well stocked and the company pleasant we had nothing to complain about.
Another day we went to Natural Bridge, Springbrook National Park. The rain forest is always impressive with it’s animal life and overwhelming nature. On the way to the Glow Worm cave we saw amazing bird and plant life, as the cave and the surroundings are home to many rare species of animals. The cave itself is not particularly big, but very noisy because of the en-suite waterfall.
On the way back to the beach we passed through the New South Wales town of Murwillumbah, a quaint but – we were told – typical town for the area. We also went to Tweed Peak and Point Danger, again amazed at the scenery you find every where you turn.
We couldn’t come back home not having had a barbecue at the beach, so one was arranged for New Years day at 08:00. How that ever seemed to be a good idea, I’ll never know! Well, everyone showed up pretty much on time, and our hosts put on a spread unmatched anywhere in town. It was a good start to the new year.
Brisbane Roar, who’s game we would be attending when returning to Brisbane, were playing Melbourne away, so some of us went to the local Hooters which can be counted on to be well stocked with TV-screens, spicy chicken wings and beer – just a perfect venue for watching the games you can’t attend live.
We also managed to fit a wine-tour into the schedule. We flew to Newcastle for a two-night stay in Hunter Valley. The unit we were staying at was one out of 8 attached units, the setup was perfect with a combination lock, two days worth of DIY breakfast in the fridge and all the coffee you would want. Unit was very nicely laid out with a wooden veranda equipped with BBQ and with a view over a small creek attracting wildlife, particularly morning and night. Second morning we came out to the view of 10 hot air balloons making their way across the valley. Before settling in, a quick trip to the local shops were in order. Only the essentials, obviously, wine, beer and cheese, mainly… We ventured out on our own to various wine and nature sites, but the main event while we were in Hunter Valley was an organised bus-tour of wineries, a chocolate factory and a distillery.
The wine tour was, erm, different… We were last pickup, so the bus was nearly full – the largest party consisted of 14 English 21-25 year old girls, two of which had brought their boyfriends. It seemed they had been attending a friends wedding, and thought this would be a convenient way to get loaded up front for that days partying. They were loud and thirsty. We started out at Lucy’s Run – named after a dog. It was quite a small winery, only selling at the door, but presentation and wine wise, it was actually the best of the day. One of the guys from the big group of English youth were seated so he got served first when new samples were poured in our glasses. He managed to empty his every time well before the person sitting next to him was served. Hilarious! From there, we went to “The Cellar” for lunch and then onto Allendale. That has got to be the weirdest tasting I’ve tried. The group was let into a store room with barrels and casks. We were told to “stay put” as we couldn’t be trusted not to steal stuff. The girl presenting the wine did so by arriving with the bottle, mumble a few words about the grape and name of the wine, pour the glasses and then depart again leaving us to wonder in amazement until she repeated the performance after 15 minutes. One of the bottles was not from the winery or the area – actually not even from the same state. No explanation was offered as to why we were tasting that, and she ran off before anyone could ask. By popular demand (mainly from the girls, I suspect) we stopped at a chocolate factory, and then on to a distillery tasting 18 different spirits, mainly flavored vodka. One of the girls from the earlier mentioned group managed an agreement with the presenter, that she was served two tasting samples every time – obviously in order to ensure she got round to all elements of the deep and rich flavors. The whole bus tour took place about 25km from where they that day measured the hottest temperature on earth. 47C, apparently, though where we were it never seemed warmer than 45C! Weird company and temperature apart, it was fun to visit the different places, though wine educational-wise I wouldn’t say we went home particularly smarter than we went out.