Tie Me Rooney Down Sport
Trip Start Nov 08, 2003
74Trip End Oct 22, 2004
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We left Maroochydore and headed inland towards the town of Nambour where we picked up another humdinger of a scenic drive through the mountains. We took an elevenses coffee break in the charming little town of Montville with its period-style shop fronts and views across the Sunshine Coast before dropping a thousand metres to the town of Beerwah, famous as the home of Australia's favourite son, Steve Irwin Crocodile Hunter, and his very own 'Australia Zoo'.
We began our tour of the zoo with some dozing alligators and waddling wombats then it was onto the venomous snakes compound with our old toxic mate, the Taipan, taking pride of place. Next up was a wander through the birds of prey area and a rainforest aviary which led to a cuddly-zone of red kangaroos and even cuddlier koalas
We then hurried through the unattractive animal abodes of the emu and the Wetlands before coming across 'Roo Heaven' as they called it. A good hundred roos and wallabies lounged about in the afternoon sun being fed and petted by the masses but we strolled though as we had lunch and a crocodile show looming but vowed we'd return with bags of roo food.
In the foodcourt we ordered six-inch tall 'Feeding Frenzy' burgers which we shovelled down in double-quick time as the croc show was imminent at the croc enclosure featuring Bowen, Toolakea and Cassie. Everyone gathered around the croc-pit as a ranger held out huge pork chops for them and we waited for them to perform ravenous cartwheels but they were having none of it today as the sun's rays blazed down and the crocs soaked them up. It was understandable as sunbathing is the only way they get energy. Nonetheless, our eager Steve Irwin wanabee in the pit did his best to add interest to the statuesque proceedings with interesting anecdotes on the mythical speed of a croc (you could hop backwards and still be faster) and the fatalities (20 deaths in 35 years, apparently you've got more chance of being killed by an unsteady Coca-Cola machine after it topples over and crushes you when you manhandle it after it's failed to deliver your can, fact)
Around the corner was a display of baby tigers which led to the 'kids zoo'. Well we never thought you could have so much fun feeding baby farm animals, Soph was in her element and had lambs, calves and piglets eating 50 cent bags of food from her hands and after an eternity I pulled her away and to some more lethal animals in the shape of dingoes, foxes, cassowaries. Tasmanian devils and camels. By the dingoes was the 'Dingo Diner' where kangaroo food as well as human grub could be bought so we invested in two more 50-cent bags of chow for our favourite furry beings.
We made our way back to the huge compound that is 'Roo Heaven' and made our acquaintances with a mummy roo and her baby, and once soppy looks were etched onto our faces we sat down with them like a picnic and hand-fed them palm fulls of what seemed to be 'All-Bran'. We could have spent the rest of the day there, and nearly did, immersing ourselves in the therapeutic qualities of marsupial feeding. Now where's those adoption papers?
Walking back through the main building as people had their photos taken with snakes for posterity we came across Steve Irwin, well it looked and sounded like him
Our final tour led us to more scary creatures held under lock and key in the shape of iguanas, monitors, skinks and otters, and all the while rangers walked around holding interesting little beasts for Joe Public to stroke such as baby crocs and cockatoos. An exit from the zoo wouldn't be complete without a Selfridges-sized souvenir shop and the chance to purchase pictures of Steve Irwin's family and a video of his wife giving birth (I kid you not). Sadly for Steve she gave birth to a human but happily for us we'd just spent an afternoon in one of the world's best zoos, if not the best. Go there now.
Leaving another slice of escapism we came crashing down to Earth. England were playing in the early hours and nothing less than a win against the Croats would do. Couldn't wait.
We dragged ourselves away from the zoo and headed for the outskirts of Brisbane eventually ending up in the royal-sounding suburb of Windsor for a night in a motel room showing the big game
Once again we set the alarm for 4.30am and watched England unconvincingly beat Croatia. All I can say is thank God for Lamps and Roonaldo, saviours of the Three Lions.
Not for the first time we had a paltry post-Euro three-hour sleep which set us up for a nice day exploring Brisbane in our state of amnesia. On checking out, our receptionist had given us his view of the city and we were expecting Brisbane to be full of feeling and architecture and not many groundbreaking sights. We drove into the heart of Brissie (as we and the locals like to call it) and somehow found a parking metre close to the action.
The city centre is a blend of glass and steel high-rises and graceful nineteenth century buildings and is tucked neatly into a U-shaped loop of the Brisbane River with its streets following a grid pattern and are named after royalty with queens and princesses running north to south and kings and princes running east to west.
Queen Street is the city's main pedestrianised mall with lots of old baroque-style arcades and as we popped in and out of various shops we were struck by the friendliness of the locals
The whole city had a real feel-good factor which found itself slotted in at number three as our favourite Aussie city pushing Melbourne for the number two slot behind Sydney.
Once we'd had our fill of city life we sped south on the South East Freeway through the Brisbane suburbs and onto a very busy Pacific Motorway towards the Gold Coast. An hour later and we'd arrived in Southport where we booked into Broadwater Caravan Park shelling out a record figure for an expensive waters-edge patch of grass with views along the beach to the unreal sight of Surfers Paradise with its skyscraper-tall holiday apartments hugging the coastline
That evening over the barbeque we chatted with yet another Aussie who had no intention of visiting the UK thus missing out on a chance to see real British culture: rain, traffic jams, rude people, high crime-rate, mass unemployment and Dale Winton. They just don't know what they're missing.
Today we were heading for Dreamworld, apparently the best theme park in Australia, for some fear therapy. We'd done our homework and figured it'd be quiet as it wasn't the school holidays but on arrival the place was heaving with screaming kids. Nonetheless we handed over the $116 admission fee like the good tourists that we are and headed straight for two of the scarier rides in the park. The 'Cyclone' is the tallest roller coaster in the southern hemisphere with a double-loop which we mastered without closing our eyes once but 'Wipeout' was another matter. You were strapped in side by side with forty others and span around on a giant horizontal kebab spit to supposedly duplicate a surfer but at times you hung there upside-down fifty-foot off the ground trying in vain to hold in the contents of your pockets and bowels
Next on the agenda was a look at Tiger Island and its group of rare Bengal tigers including a pure-white specimen and then it was onwards and very much upwards to the 'Tower of Terror', where we were strapped into a single car with ten others before accelerating along a flat runway which suddenly curved vertically to a height of 120 metres where we hung facing the sky for what seemed an eternity, we then came back down in reverse and ended up where we'd started. A few fairground rides and kiddie roller coasters followed before we headed over to another area via the foot-long hotdog stall. The 'Runaway Mine Train' was a gentle roller coaster through pitch-black tunnels.
Like Australia Zoo, Dreamworld had its own smaller-scale wildlife zoo and kiddies farm but sadly when we arrived at the roos for another hand-feeding session they were collapsed on the ground bloated through over-feeding and were turning their noses up at our offerings.
Finally we visited Dreamworld Studios, scene of the Big Brother eviction shows with the house a short drive away behind closed doors. We wandered by windows revealing camera-controllers and producers arguing who was in charge of the bathroom camera that day and on the stage sat the green sofa where evictee's famous bottoms had perched
Dreamworld had been pretty good but now it was time to hit the road once more and a short drive south via the holiday metropolis of Surfers Paradise led us back into New South Wales for the first time in over two months. We arrived in the town of Hastings Point and booked into the impressive North Star campsite where a chilly clear evening forced us inside for dinner.
We were now well and truly into the home straight as far as Australia was concerned with stopovers in the laid back towns of Byron Bay and Manly to look forward to . . .
Steve Irwin & The Frock Hunter