Hello from the swish resort town of Noosa Head on the Queensland coast. I'm just taking advantage of my 2 hours here to get on the Internet for the last time in a few days (how sad of me!), before I am cut off when we get to Fraser Island and then the farm stay near Rockhampton. Its the last stop for us on our days drive from Surfers Paradise to Fraser Island. We left Surfers at around 7.45am and spent 2 hours this morning in Brisbane, and we'll arrive in Fraser Island at about 7pm.
I was pretty glad to get out of Surfers Paradise. It wasn't the nicest place we've been on this trip and because of the time of year it was overrun by "schoolies". Schoolies is an Australian phenomenon. Its basically where all the graduating school kids descend on selected coastal towns and go mental for a week or so in celebration of completing their exams. Surfers Paradise is possibly the most popular resort for this, and they were well prepared with extra police patrols and even more expensive prices in the bars and clubs. Crime rates shoot up at this time of year and we were warned about pickpockets and the like.
On our first evening in Surfers, most people, including me, opted to go to a rather expensive theatre restaurant named Draculas. We got seats right near the stage and ate a full meal while the compares teased the audience ahead of the main show. Everybody included the waiters was dressed up as a vampire and there was vampire theming everywhere. It was all very Las Vegas, which is a bit what Surfers Paradise is like in general. You had to enter the theatre on a ghost train, which as usual was not remotely scary. However, unbeknown to us at the time we were being video-taped on a corner where there was a sudden popping sound, and the footage of this was replayed during the intervals of the show. Myself and Sinclair made the cut, though I don't know why as neither of us even blinked, but there were plenty of other people who leapt out of their skin which was funny to watch.
Just before the show started the lead actor did the usual trick of picking on members of the audience and humilating them. I had expected this and deliberately sat as far from the stage as I could get, but of all the hundreds of people in the audience (there was an upper circle as well as a dining area) I was one of the three he picked on! He joked that my red H&M shirt was very brokeback mountain, and having found out I was British he made a pun about the Queen and my supposed sexuality. The spotlight was on me for a good minute and it was very humiliating! The show itself continued with very hit and miss adult humour. It probably wasn't worth the money but it was something different at least. After the show we visited the Sin City club in the centre of town. It was overrun with brattish kids and the drinks prices were extortionate. Cocktails were 3 times what you would pay in Britain and beer bottles double what you would pay for a pint. Australia is really really expensive for drinks - even coke bottles are double the price of in the UK.
The next morning was free for us to explore the city, but the weather was very dull which meant the beach looked very grim. Surfers looks a bit like Benidorm with a series of beach front apartments. One of them is one of the tallest residential blocks in the world. Tourism here started in the 1960s and at that time it was all very Butlins. It has continued developing in a similar sordid vain and I would much rather have stayed in one of the nicer beach towns such as Noosa Head or Byron Bay, which we are rushing through.
In the afternoon I took a half day 4 by 4 trip one hour west into the rainforest of the Springbrook National Park. We first took a walk to the highest waterfall in the Gold Coast region, which was a 106m (350ft) sheer drop. However, as this is still the dry season (just) there was only a fraction of the water flowing over it than on the notice board pictures. We then visited another waterfall where some people did some swimming, and finally we visited a viewpoint where you could see down to the Gold Coast resorts. At the viewpoint we had some snacks laid on for us, which we ate round the fire due to the fact it was so chilly! I really wasn't expecting the Australian summer (which started on December 1st) to be this cold! On the drive back we were lucky enough to spot some wallabies near the side of the road, and we also took a short diversion for a bit of off road driving. At this point, our driver (who was hired for the day as so many people booked the tour) started behaving like an idiot. He had never done off road driving and no idea how to do it. He would back off the lead vehicle in front and race down the hills in a very risky manner. I've been in a lot of 4 by 4s on this trip and I know this isn't how you're supposed to drive them. He said he was a novice racing driver and I think he was trying to impress the American woman in the front seat. It got worse when we got back on the windy country roads, where he gave her the wheel so he could take his top off. We came up to a corner whilst he was doing this and the American girl didn't turn the wheel hard enough. We were so close to crashing before he grabbed the wheel last minute and swerved the car out of the clutches of the ditch. The final straw for Aussie bloke Michael (who was in the back with me) came when he let go of the wheel again to sort his MP3 player out. Michael justifiably laid into him but he behaved like a spoilt kid and laughed it off saying Michael was a "scaredicat". He'll be submitting a formal complaint about the guy.
This morning we had a stop in Queensland's capital and one of Australia's main cities, Brisbane. We were only given a couple of hours to see the place, so I did a very rushed walk round trying to see the main sights. I went through the botanical gardens, along the riverfront and back through the city centre, which took me about 1 hour 45 minutes. Its a shame we didn't have longer but I think I saw the main bits. Brisbane seemed to have a nicer, more relaxed atmosphere to Sydney, but there was much less to see. The centre had a long and wide pedestrianised shopping street, which was something Sydney desperately lacked, and the waterfront area, although nothing on Sydney Harbour, was still pleasant. Australian cities seem to be much more American than they are British - the opposite was true in New Zealand - but I feel American cities have that bit more about them.
Now I am in Noosa Head on our lunch and sunbathing stop. This is another resort full of schoolies, but it is a much wealthier and classier place compared to Surfers. There were a lot of massive mansions on the way in, and the beach is pristine. Our bus leaves again in a bit so I best go. I will hopefully update from the Whitsundays in a few days time.