Tag Archives: Brisbane

When In Wanaka

After spending a few months on the island continent Australia I was itching to spread my wings. I had a semester break at the end of September/beginning of October and I knew where I wanted to go: New Zealand.

The scary part was that I was going to be doing this 100% on my own. I wasn’t going to meet anyone there that was part of my university or study abroad group. I was doing this for me. It was a huge step for me to travel and make plans on my own and it gave me confidence for future travel adventures. In my head I already knew that I wanted to go and see some of the Lord of the Rings filming locations, so I made it a mission to do just that. I decided to start my adventure on the South Island or Te Waipounamu in the city of Queenstown and I booked a day tour that would take me around to various locations used in the filming of the Lord of the Rings films.

An odd connection from Brisbane to an overnight in Melbourne to an AM Sydney flight and running through the Sydney airport to catch a flight, then a few hours staring out a Qantas window, a movie about a Scottish cyclist (The Flying Scotsman) and a crappy Robin Williams movie (License To Wed) later … I landed in Queenstown.

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I had arranged to be driven to Wanaka via a shuttle bus. the only problem was that I didn’t know/remember the name of the bus. This was before the smartphone era so I had to boot up my laptop and then try and find WiFi at the airport and STILL, I was stuck. I knew when I was going to be picked up, but I didn’t know by who. When the time came to be picked up I wandered around the shuttles and saw one. I guess I looked lost because the driver immediately asked if I was going to Wanaka and if I was staying at the Minaret Lodge B&B. I was relieved that he named the right place! I handed him the money I owed and off I went.

I stared out the window and took in the beautiful scenery. I hadn’t seen anything like it before. Everything was so green and pristine. Truly beautiful.

The bus snaked up a windy road and when we reached the top, I was surprised to see snowflakes fall lightly on the window. It was nearly October. It was supposed to be transitioning from Spring into Summer. Brisbane was warm-to-hot nearly every day. I also hadn’t seen snow fall since I was about 10 or 11 years old. I nearly forgot what it looked like.

One-by-one, and sometimes more, people were being dropped off at their respective hotels until it was me and two other people left. The sun had gone down long ago leaving only the orange glow of the streetlights to cut through the darkness. The bus pulled up to a driveway covered in tiny pebbles and I was let out. I was greeted by a kind woman, who was also the owner, who showed me to my Hobbit-sized room.

After traveling all that way, I had nearly forgotten that I had booked a room that would make me feel like a hobbit.

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After getting settled the owner asked if I wanted to head into town to get some dinner, since she was heading there. I would have to walk back, but I didn’t mind so I took her up on it and she dropped me off right next to the restaurant she recommended to me: The Cow. Situated right next to the Post Office, The Cow Pizza & Spaghetti House, is truly one of the best pizzas I have ever eaten. It’s a warm and inviting place full of history and great pizza. I sat down, ordered one of the local seasonal beers and of course a pizza.

I don’t recall a time before this where I went out to dinner by myself. It was nice. I was able to take in everything around me. I felt the warmth of the wood fire, I heard the locals talk and I saw people young and old enjoying the ambiance, each other and the food. You can’t beat that.

At the end of my meal I noticed a few t-shirts hanging around and I asked the waitress which one looked better on me. She told me the tan one and it’s still a shirt that I own and wear to this day.

On my way back to my room I took the road parallel to Roys Bay and you know what I heard? Nothing. It was a silent, quiet night and I was able to enjoy the serenity of a nighttime lakeside walk on the aptly named Lakeside Rd as I made my way back to my Hobbit-sized room.

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Fraser Island, A Queensland Gem

Roughly 200km North of Brisbane is Fraser Island. A peaceful island listed on the Australia National Heritage List that is protected because of the islands significance to the country. Essentially, it’s an important landmark whose value is seen beyond just physically being there. I had the privilege of traveling to the island on a day trip back in November 2007. It was very easy to coordinate travel – booked a spot with the company, arrived at the Roma Street station and hopped on a bus that took us out to the island.

I admit to sleeping some of the way on the way out because it was rather early, but I was awake when we came upon the ferry that would take us to and from the island. Our bus drove right on and we were allowed to walk around and marvel at the scenery.

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Once on the island our bus took us on a ride. The vehicles are equipped to handle the sandy surface of the island and while there were, naturally, a few bumps along the way it was a pleasant experience.

Our first stop was to the Wanggoolba Creek and Boardwalk. A lush, dense area of the island that is surrounded by ferns and other native plants. It says that there is a creek there, and it’s there, you can hear it, but upon first inspection you see nothing. It looks as if it is just sandy, dry creek bed. When in fact, the water is so pure and clear that you have to physically change your perspective in order to see it flowing.

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Even now, I look at that above photo and wonder where the water is.

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From here we traveled up a sandy path to possibly one of the most beautiful places I have ever been, Lake McKenzie. It is a pure, freshwater lake that is filled only by rainwater. As soon as you step onto the main beach you hear the difference, a suction-like sound with each step. That is due to the pure-silica sand. The sand is what gives the lake its shine and glimmer. I was told that if I were to take the pure-silica sand and rub it on my body that it would smooth out my skin. It was an odd sensation at first but I could not deny that my skin felt softer and more refreshed after I was finished.

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Swimming in pure water like that of Lake McKenzie was unlike any other swimming experience I’ve ever had. There aren’t any impurities in the water, no animal byproducts, and no plant life of any kind because the lake cannot sustain it. When I opened my eyes underwater I could see forever. I still haven’t experienced anything like it since.

As I reclined on my towel, taking in the scenery, I knew that this was the perfect way to end the day on Fraser Island.

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Getting Around Brisbane

I found Brisbane to be a very easy city to navigate. I chose QUT as my university to study at because it was a big city, but not too big, and it appeared to have a decent public transportation system. I was right. You can get around via water, road or track.

The most idyllic form of transportation is by CityCat ferry. It navigates the Brisbane River with ease and on, even a moderate weather day, it’s a great way to take in the city without the hassle of traffic. The ferry hops from both banks of the river and I found it a very efficient way to get around. The only negative is that there are some days when the water is being occupied by races, but those are few and far between and there is plenty of advance notice for you. Some call it a bit touristy but I found it more efficient to go from my apartment in Toowong to QUT via CityCat than to take the bus or train.

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Like just about every city in the world, Brisbane has a bus system. I found it to be efficient and just like a lot of other bus systems I have used over the years. There are some places that, if you don’t have a car, you can only get to by bus and that’s where it comes in handy. Other than that, there is not much else to write about it.

Queensland Rail, or QR, runs right into the heart of the CBD and stretches out to the airport, toward the coast and to the inland suburbs. I never encountered a problem while I rode QR, you just have to make sure you are on the correct platform (like most trains) or else you’ll end up in the wrong place. As I was getting bored with taking the CityCat to and from school, I started riding QR home and taking in a different view of the city. I would take the bus to Roma Street, get on the train and then get off at Toowong. It was very simple, and somewhat idiot proof to follow.

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Australian Rules

AFL, or Australian Rules Football, is an odd game. To the untrained eye it’s just a bunch of guys running around kicking, catching, passing and punting a ball that looks like a rugby ball. Upon closer inspection it’s an incredibly nuanced game filled with rules about taking too many steps with the ball before bouncing it on the ground, getting a “mark” on a player, and then kicking it through vertical posts (called the goal and behinds) for varying point totals (six and one respectively).

The game is particularly thrilling to watch, especially live, as it is very fast-paced and the players are in top athletic shape as they crash into other players, making spectacular plays on the ball. After the game, they let the fans come down and throw around their own ball on the field! People, young and old alike, are down there tossing the ball around, sending it through the air and having their own bit of fun after they watched their team play. It’s, and this sounds cheesy but it’s true, fun for the whole family.

I recommend checking out some clips on YouTube or go directly to the AFL website to learn more about the game. I’ll leave you with some photos I took at the Gabba watching my Brisbane Lions.

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Brisbane From Above: Mt. Coot-tha

Spend time on the ground long enough and you’re going to want to get up above everything and see where you’ve been.

I live by that motto, which I think I just made up, whenever I go someplace new. I try to get up as high as I can to look over a city, town, landscape, or whatever. Maybe that’s why I enjoy bungy jumping so much. I get to take in the view and then dive headfirst into it. Unfortunately, Brisbane didn’t have anything like that on top of Mt. Coot-tha.

I’d like to keep this post shorter and let the images speak for themselves.

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Once I navigated a winding road surrounded by trees as tall as some buildings, I came upon the observation area. Which, as you can see is a beautiful patio overlooking the city of Brisbane and the Brisbane River as you’re perched on top of the trees. On the clearest day you can see all the way out to the Pacific Ocean.

A great feature at the observation area is the tile work and plaque depicting the river as it starts from the ocean and snakes through the city.

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It truly is a must-see for anyone visiting Brisbane. It gives you a whole new perspective on the city and allows you to escape, for however long you’d like, the chaos of city life.

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