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Excerpt from the Journal of Olds – Day 213-219 – Australia – Brisbane to Sydney

I’d been looking forward to Brisbane as I had it pegged as a place to stop for a few days and see the city – it has a reputation as being good for live music and two of our friends from Japan both reside there. We rolled into town in the afternoon with me frantically attempting to contact Shaun & Zak but without any real agenda for what to do. We decided to get parked up near GoMA – the gallery of Modern Art – and get a feel for the place.

With this intent came the start of the day’s problems. Brisbane’s one-way system was a nightmare for the uninitiated and parking costs were comically high. We may well have spent an hour getting increasingly frustrated before deciding reluctantly to stump up the costs for parking at the gallery itself.

The gallery was the highlight of the day; I really enjoyed it as there seemed to be a big focus on installation art and less pretentious guff that such museums are noted for. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed wandering and snapping photos around a gallery as much as I did there. One exhibition was made up entirely of children’s work; this sounds like a nightmare but these kids were for the most part incredible – they really threw the “so what have you done with your life recently?” curve-ball. It was really impressive.

Attempts at contact with my Brisbane buddies failed – I didn’t give them anywhere near enough time or notice so the fault lies with me. As we exited the museum Rob was keen to move onto Surfer’s Paradise where both he and Gilly had a rendezvous much better organised with their friend Helen whom they met in Vietnam. Our options for stopping in-city with vans were limited and we still had a lot of ground to make up to get the Sydney so we said our goodbyes to Brisbane far too early, collectively disappointed that we’d not had the opportunity to see more of it.

The next day we awoke on the outskirts of Brisbane and while Rob & Gilly took off to meet Helen and join her and her mum for a Mother’s Day meal we looked into getting Fi a laptop so that we wouldn’t be dependent upon mine – chalk one up to first-world problems there. Ahoy flashpackers. We found a great deal at JB HI-FI that included free Beats headphones worth a pretty penny themselves. Fi was happy with her new toy and I was excited about the prospect of some hi-quality cans after I’d registered online.

We then set off to Surfers Paradise. As it came into view I thought we’d taken a wrong turn somewhere and ended up in Miami; the skyline was crazy. Given the size of Australia the vast majority of places are fairly flat outside of major cities. Surfer’s Paradise was like someone had challenged property developers to maximise the height of their buildings – skyscrapers everywhere. Having had no idea what to expect – but leaning towards the idea of laid back surf town – finding a sky-high metropolis came as a bit of a shock. We found a well-located camp site for the night but didn’t really do much else.

The next day, after a little exploring we settled down for breakfast and a bit of internet time. I went to register for my headphones only to find out that the offer had expired less than a fortnight ago. Gutted, I did something I almost never do – I lodged a complaint. I had no expectation that anything would come of it and I wasn’t nasty, just disappointed.

We set off to take a look at the beach that had caused Australia to throw buildings hundreds of feet in the air around it. As we pulled up I got a phone call – it was the fella who’d sold us the laptop the day before. He apologised profusely – this was fair enough and more than I’d expected as everyone makes mistakes. He then asked if we could come in today and they’d give us the headphones in store for free; this was incredible. HP supply the headphones via the deal, not JB HI-FI, but they were willing to give them as compensation for their mistake. I was blown away. We agreed, made our way there, and I was the proud owner of some swanky and awesome sounding headphones within a few hours. Had the deal been valid the headphones would have had to be shipped to Fi’s cousin’s address in Sydney by which time we’d have left the country so I most likely wouldn’t have seen them until my return to the UK. Thanks to the decent folk at JB HI-FI I was sat on Surfer’s Paradise beach later that day blasting out tunes through my swanky new headphones and strumming my guitar in time.

That evening we we’re invited to join up again with Rob & Gilly and meet Helen, her boyfriend Andrew and two of Andrews three brothers who’d offered to have us over for the night and put us up. We arrived and had a lovely evening of home-cooked pizzas and lots of Dan Murphy’s wine.

Rob & Gilly were in the throes of theme park fever while we were keenly aware of our need to be in Sydney by the end of the week so the travelling Miltonians parted company the next morning with a plan to reconnect amidst the Blue Mountains the following Sunday.

We hit the road bound for Byron Bay. On arrival I found that it was more like I’d imagined Surfer’s Paradise would be – a lovely laid back surf town with heaps of nice street art that I never got around to taking photos of. We wandered up the hill to the lighthouse and saw the sea breaking down below. In truth there wasn’t much going on but the place was just nice in general. Had we been settling in to one of the hostels for the evening I imagine there would have been much more on the agenda but instead we rolled out of town to a camp site and settled down for the night.

Somewhat smitten with Byron Bay despite our inability to really take part in the vibe we went back for a morning coffee just to enjoy being there for a little bit longer. A big days driving took us on to Coffs Harbour. As we were pulling in to attempt to catch a sunset we spied Colin & Julie pulling out of a gas station and a few text messages later we’d arranged to camp at Stuarts Point that night. We made our Coffs Harbour sunset and the light was really good across the boats but after taking a few photos it was clear that there wasn’t much going on. Back on the road as darkness fell we eventually made it to Stuart’s Point and had a lovely evening with Colin & Julie.

We awoke the next day and chilled while Colin did a spot of fishing and we all had breakfast. We went for a stroll along the beach in the near perfect weather and left Stuart’s Point with fond memories of the place – it’s a lovely quiet place to stop for a night. We rolled on through a couple of places together over the course of the day and searched in vain for the usually ubiquitous free BBQs to rustle up pancakes. In the afternoon we arrived in Port Macquarie – body-boarding capital of the world – and watched them in action while musing over the graffiti strewn stones that surround the beach. We grabbed ingredients from the supermarket and rustled up fajitas for tea in an ice cold truck stop about 150Km north of Sydney – all huddled in Colin & Julie’s Jucy van.