The Sunshine Coast

Trip Start Jan 10, 2005
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Trip End May 10, 2005


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Flag of Australia  ,
Tuesday, March 29, 2005

We caught a flight from Cairns to Brisbane, arriving after 11 pm (another crazy time to arrive!). This time we flew JetStar, the economy airline of Quantas. It was the first time we'd experienced "rush seating" on a plane, so everyone certainly pushed into line when boarding was announced. Like the Virgin flight, there were no free drinks or snacks. If you wanted anything, you had to pay for it.

My friend Rosslyn was to pick us up at the Brisbane airport, but her car broke down on the way. She finally materialized about 12:15 am, rescued by her sister who picked her up by the side of the freeway. (We had met up briefly with Ros when we first arrived in Bangkok in January.)

I met Ros when I was travelling with Heather and another friend, Shelly, in Portugal in 1981. She and her cousin, Linda, had been travelling for over two years. I was amazed by these two very blonde and very tanned adventurous Aussie women. It would be over three years before either of them returned home.

Ros lives in Kawana Waters on the Sunshine Coast in a small townhouse with a beautiful garden. Every morning, we sat and drank coffee/tea and ate our breakfast there. Before we arrived, she carefully checked the patio furniture for redback spiders, though she was quick to reassure us that they don't bother you if you don't bother them . . . ! (She also has blue-tongued lizards in her yard, but they're not dangerous.) The climate here is very hot; many of the plants in her backyard are succulents or cacti. When I told her about the spring (e.g., planting, fighting with the weeds) and fall (e.g., taking less hardy bulbs out of the ground, bringing in gold fish) maintenance our gardens require, she thought it would be too much work to bother.

She is very careful in the sun as she has had be treated for skin cancer several times, like many Australians have. She and Linda were sun worshippers and are now paying for it. She commented on how smooth our skin was, compared to the Aussies'. Younger people here tend to pay more heed to the dangers of prolonged sun exposure, probably because many of their parents have had skin cancer. I remember when I was here in 1984 "slip on a T-shirt, slop on a sunscreen, slap on a hat" was being widely promoted. It still is.

Like many Australians, Ros has had encounters with jellyfish. Once while working on Hayman Island, she was stung by a box jellyfish that put her into hospital for three days. She said the pain was excruciating.

Ros works in a bottle shop (beer and wine store). Unfortunately, we were there over the Easter holidays, so she had to work most of the time. It sounds like her boss takes advantage of his employees in many ways (not giving them shift schedules well ahead of time, asking them to work alone, etc.). One nice thing about Australia is that they start at four weeks vacation a year and after 10 years, everyone (regardless of where they work), receives an additional 8 1/4 weeks!!!

The Sunshine Coast (north of Brisbane) and Gold Coast (south of Brisbane) are some one of the fastest growing areas in Australia and are attracting people from cooler climes like Sydney and Melbourne. Ros bought her condo seven years ago and it has more than tripled in price. The beaches are certainly spectacular here. Miles and miles of sand.

Both Ros and Linda grew up on dairy farms, just west of Brisbane and their families moved to the coast (Caloundra) when their parents retired. They love this area of Australia, though both are planning trips abroad (or dreaming of them) in their spare time. Travelling the world is never far from their minds.

Linda and her husband, Keith, live in Ferny Grove, a suburb of Brisbane, with their two children, Christopher (17) and Lisa (14). Keith is a payroll clerk for an architectural firm and Linda promotes various food and household products to organizations and groups. They spent many years early on in their marriage in Western Australia in towns like Bunbury and Gisborne, but much prefer the east coast.

I teased Ros and Linda about their "Australianisms": "I reckon", saying "chooks" for chickens, the way Linda calls her kids "dahling", Rosslyn driving in her bare feet (many Australians do). Sometimes we have difficulty understanding each other. We laugh about it a lot.

We had an Easter egg hunt at Ros' Easter Sunday morning. She gave us a chocolate bilby and wombat. The bilby is an endangered rodent in Australia and sales of bilby chocolate go towards helping to protect them. Chocolate doesn't last long in the Australian sun - it melts to a messy glob in very short order (so you have to eat it quickly!).

On Easter Friday we went out for a meal with Ros. I was stunned to learn that it is common practice for restauranteurs to add an additional 15-20% to the bill to help pay their staff overtime on a statutory holiday! I'm not sure how that would go over in Canada . . . .

TV and reality shows are as popular here as they are in Canada. Linda's daughter was really into a show called The X Factor (similar to American Idol). (Of course, there's Australian Idol). Linda and Ros both loved The Amazing Race, of course. Dancing with the Stars, a reality show based on ballroom dancing, was very popular with Western Australians (namely the Stretch family).

While in Brisbane, I also made contact with Trevor Bridger, a friend originally from Wellington, New Zealand who married an Australian, Carol. They have three children: Julia (18), Scott (15) and Andy (12). I met Trevor through Heather who first encountered him while travelling in Ireland. When Heather and I were in Wellington, he had returned home to recuperate from a horrific accident that he had in the US. While jogging near the Grand Canyon, he was hit by a motorcycle and suffered a broken leg, broken ankle and multiple injuries to the right side of his face. He and his sister, Glora, lived on one of the highest hills in Wellington and he would climb up and down that hill and the steps to their house, every day. It was his physiotherapy.

Now the signs of the accident are barely visible. He has a few scars on the side of his face (if you look closely) and he said he has one leg shorter than the other so he doesn't jog anymore. He's still the same old mischievous Trevor, with a glint in his eye, ready to join in the fun.

There was recently another earthquake in Indonesia. Over 1,000 people were killed. We watched a rugby game on television that honoured a Melbourne player who died on his honeymoon during the tsunami. He helped save his wife's life, but he drowned doing so.
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