We left Shanghai to the airport via the Maglev train, the fastest commercial high-speed electric train in the world. Well, we had already been on the 2nd fastest from Shanghai to Beijing, so we had to experience this and watch it reach the top speed of 431 km/h. Unfortunately, it didn't so we didn't get the "selfie" showing the speed, apparently it only goes this fast at peak times.
Our time at the airport was interesting - after checking in the departure board announced our flight was delayed which would mean missing our connecting flight. Luckily a Chinese man living in Australia acted as a translator for us as he was on the same flight - we had to go back out of departures, pick our luggage back up, make our way over to international departures, check in again - we ended up on another flight with another airline but it was direct. Quite amazed at how efficient this all was and we were very pleased to be on a direct flight. So, 9 hours later we landed in Brisbane airport with Kevin there to meet us.
We were staying with Kevin, Michelle and Aoife for just over 2 weeks before flying to Tasmania for 16 days. We immediately felt at home and Aoife had given up her bedroom for us - it was once again nice to be able to unpack and have a "home" for a few weeks. They live on the Sunshine Coast in the state of Queensland, an hour north of Brisbane, in Minyama, which is near Maroochydore, which is near Mooloolaba! Surrounded by lots of beautiful beaches, Minyama also has a nice esplanade with shops, cafes, dining etc - so a nice place to be on holiday. Kevin managed to get some time off whilst we were here so we spent some days in the week exploring the local neighbourhoods and weekends with Michelle and Aoife.
We spent our first weekend visiting Maleny located high in the misty Blackall Mountain range. As it was a wet day it was perfect to mooch around the town's art galleries and studios. We stopped for coffee at Secrets on the Lake Hotel set in a beautiful rainforest overlooking a lake. The weather cheered up the next day so we drove out to the coastal town of Noosa Heads and had a stroll along the boardwalk through the national park overlooking the sea, together with an ice-cream to help us cool down.
Closer to home we spent a couple of evenings taking a cool box with beer to the grassy slopes of Point Cartwright reserve to watch the sunset and look at the views over to Mooloolaba, the river mouth and Mount Coolum. A relaxing way to spend the evening with lots of families having picnics and Aoife running around chasing the wild turkeys.
Heather had read up on all the different beaches in the area so Kevin took us on a "beach crawl" one day. Not all are suitable for swimming and have crashing surf and no lifeguards, but there are some which have beautiful clear water and white sandy beaches. Neither of us are able to spend too long in the strong sunshine and heat over here so we just admired the views of each beach and took some photos.
We used Kevin and Michelle's bikes and cycled in to town and did spend an hour on the beach, albeit sitting under the shade of a tree. Mooloolaba beach had quite a lot of surf that day so Heather only went in up to her waist but it was a nice way to spend an hour. On the way back Dan got a puncture but pumped it up at a nearby garage so had enough air to get us home.
We spent a lot of time in Kevin and Michelle's pool which was great to have on the doorstep for cooling down.
There are lots of National Parks in the area and on one of Kevin's day off we drove out to Kondalilla National Park, again in the Blackall Mountain Range. Kondalilla is an aboriginal word meaning rushing waters. It's a lovely mountain retreat with a eucalypt forest mingled with rainforest trees, a rock pool and waterfall. We did the Kondalilla Falls circuit which had lots of steps down and of course, then back up and was a nice way to spend an afternoon in the shade of the trees and get some exercise.
One Sunday, we went out with Michelle and Aoife to Steve Irwin's Australia Zoo. We got there for opening at 9.00am and didn't leave until closing time. Australia Zoo was originally started by Bob and Lyn Irwin in 1970 on 4 acres of land and is now 1,000 acres and apparently the biggest and best wildlife conservation facility in the world. So much to see and do and Heather was like a child when she found out she could hug a Koala!
On another of Kevin's days off we decided to hire 3 kayaks and paddle across the Pumicestone Passage over to Birbie Island National Park. Even though we were lathered in suntan lotion we all got quite burnt being on the water, but it was a beautiful day and a nice walk on part of Birbie Island which is a sand island of 34 km long.
We hired a car for 3 days to venture a little further north 300km to the Bundaberg region and stayed in a small seaside town of Bargara for 2 nights. Heather's main reason for choosing this area was to visit the Mon Repos Conservation Park as it was the season for loggerhead turtles to journey to the shore to lay their eggs. We arrived at 7.00pm where we were prepared to wait until we were called by a ranger to let us know when they had sight of a turtle - they could arrive any time after dark and potentially could wait up to 6 hours. However, we were very lucky and had only been there an hour when we were called to be guided across the beach in the pitch black to a turtle that had already dug out her nest and we watched as she started laying golf ball sized white eggs in to the hole in the sand. Once she had started laying we were able to take photos and it was indeed an amazing site to see. Once she had finished laying her 60+ eggs she covered up the hole, turned around and made her way back to the sea - a lovely end to our first couple of weeks in Australia.