This morning, the ‘amazement’ of the race from yesterday creaked through all the joints in my body. It took me a while to pull myself out of bed. I met up with Parag and we decided to go get breakfast, since the others had resorted to Maggi. Out on the street, it was an uncanny sight. All the breakfast joints were closed. I remembered seeing a coffee shop about a block away and we decided to check if that place was open. The road was uphill and the climb was not a pleasant one considering our sore joints. However, it wasn’t too bad and a little bit of stretching and movement eased things up.
Thankfully the cafe was open. We got our coffee and carrot cakes and also loaded up some cookies for the trip to Lone Pine Sanctuary. The earlier evening we had found a nice deal on the for the ferry tour which included a two-way ferry ride and entry into the sanctuary all for $50. The ferry started off from the Cultural Center Pontoon in the South Bank. Unfortunately, I mixed up the details a bit and we landed at the Eagle Street Pier instead, which is used by the Kookaburra tourist ferries. So we made a dash for the road, hailed another cab and landed at the correct destination. There was no ferry to be seen around and we were left wondering if the ferry tour had taken a break as well, like the coffee shops. We decided to wait and used that time to click a few photos. Like clockwork, the ferry emerged right on time. By that time a few more people had gathered at the pontoon. We boarded the ferry, paid for our trip and went to the upper deck to get some good seats. It was sunny and a little humid. The makings of a Southern Hemisphere summer (as was being announced on the news every morning).
Soon the ferry started on its journey, and along with it a commentary about the various sights that we were crossing. The Brisbane river is more that 300 kilometer long. It snakes around southern Queensland and meets the sea at Moreton Bay. The water is quite muddy, due to the mixing of the submerged particles during the tides. We crossed the Central Business District and very soon the scenery changed from skyscrapers to neat little cottages. On the way we saw a floating restaurant and some other landmarks, most of which had some anecdotes from the times when Brisbane experienced major floods. We also saw the Regatta hotel, where in 1965 two women had chained themselves to the bar to protest against a law that restricted the use of public bars only for men. It made headlines across the nation and very soon the law was overturned.
The suburbs of Towoong, Tennyson, Indooroopillay passed us, along with some beautiful villas. Noteworthy was the heritage house at Tennyson – Tintangel. On the way we saw the campus of the University of Queensland (aka UQ). Of the many beautiful bridges that we crossed, the most unique was probably the Walter Taylor Bridge, the towers of which are residential apartments! Most of the houses along the bank have their own jettys too.
After an hour-long ride we reached the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. Jens met us at the gate and brought along some mango too! After this quick snack, we started our tour of the sanctuary. A few colourful Lorikeets and Cassowarys were the first residents that we saw. Right around the corner, a pretty ugly stink was emanating. We followed the trail and landed at the Koala enclave. There were koalas of every shape and size hanging onto the branches of the small eucalyptus trees and snoring away. As per the information brochures, these guys stay awake for 4 hours a day chewing away at the eucalyptus leaves and then sleep for 20 hours! The cubby house and the kindergarten area had some young koalas, who are generally more active than their older relatives, but I guess they don’t compromise on their nap time at all. A wombat was sleeping nearby, with its hands and feet in the air. It was quite comical really. Next, we visited some scaly, slimy reptiles in the ‘Tails and Scales’ section. Umm.. considering my general aversion to them, it was a hurried walk through.
Up next were Kangaroos! We walked into a meadow and passed a few Emus. These birds are huge and flightless, and seemed unaffected by the humans around them. Some ‘roos were munching away at a distance and we walked over to their side. We tried to get a few pictures of Parag and a kangaroo, but everytime he posed the roo turned its back and ran away. Jens brought some kangaroo feed. The first few kangaroos refused the food. We moved onto another side of the meadow looking for a friendly and (hopefully) hungry kangaroo. Very soon a cute little fellow was eating out of my hand, but its tongue was pretty ticklish and I let go of the food. A bird that was lurking around (probably a small cassowary) sneaked up and pecked at whatever remaining food that was on my palm. I totally freaked and fled. All this while, we saw Red Kangaroos. Nearby, a grey and a red kangaroo were sitting peacefully. That was the only grey kangaroo that we got to see.
It was getting hot and also we were running late since we needed to go back on the ferry. We bought some ice-cream and went to see some crocodiles, kookaburras, owls, dingos etc. After a mandatory visit to the souvenir shop, we headed back to the jetty. Jens came along with us and then waited by the pier until the ferry left. The ride back was very relaxing and we were back at the cultural center pontoon by 2:30 PM. We walked up to the Victoria Bridge and went down to Queen Street Mall. On the way we saw something similar to the cycle rickshaws back home. These are called Green cabs and one can get a ride on them for $5.
At Queen Street Mall we kept dispersing and meeting regularly. I wanted to take a closer look at the Christmas decorations at Myer and was crossing the road when a little boy ran into my path and fell down. He was hardly 2 years old. I was so shocked and quickly picked him up to check if he was alright. His mother came running too and I just couldn’t stop apologising and was pretty scared that I may have hurt the child badly. The kid was a tough guy and broke into a brilliant smile, much to my relief and his mum also calmed me down. His mother and I got talking for a while. Her name was Hamza and she was from Pakistan and stayed at the QUT campus where her husband was studying. Somehow she had assumed that I was visiting my husband here in Australia and was quite surprised that I was returning to India after only a week of stay, so I had to explain that I was here on my own and for an official tour. It was quite a sweet little tete-a-tete, especially since it was in Hindi.
We continued on our shopping spree and raided the Woolworths. Laden with bags and sapped of energy we hailed a cab and returned to the hotel. We were scheduled to check out early the next morning, however it posed a problem since our flight was late in the evening and we had made plans to go to Gold Coast. Thankfully, the apartment manager Max, allowed us to use my room for the next day as well to keep our luggage. In the evening, we decided to go to this place where we had dined earlier in the week. Unfortunately, they turned us back saying that they don’t allow sandals after 6:30 PM (this was probably a weekend rule, because we were not stopped on the earlier occasion). Thankfully, their more casual outlet was round the corner and the guy at the counter guided us there. This place was called Hollywood Garden and was an open air diner. The menu was the same and we got our lip-smacking ‘garlic prawns with jasmine rice’. Thus ended our last night at Brisbane.