Buddies in Brisbane
Days 256-260 (April 9-13):
It took us about a day to get back to Bali from the Gili Islands and to board our flight out of country and continent. We were headed for the continent of Oceania, and Australia was our first stop. While on our Sail in Greece tour earlier in the year, we made friends with an Australian couple named Andrew and Sheree, who encouraged us to come and visit them in Brisbane, just as we encouraged them to come visit us in Cincinnati. Little did they know then that we meant to take them up on their offer. We bought out flights to Brisbane and sent a message to Andrew and Sheree asking if they wanted to get together while we were in town. They did us one better, and invited us to stay with them.
When Andrew picked us up from the airport with a six-pack of beer in hand, we knew we were going to have a good time. He took us back to Sheree and his beautiful Queenslander-style house and we settled in for the night. Our first two days there our hosts had to work, although our first day Sheree was generous enough to let us tag along on her drive to the coast where she dropped us off at Surfer’s Paradise and we also got explore the Gold Coast and Coolangatta. We quickly learned that Australia’s western coast is just chalk-full of amazing beaches and beautiful views. We relaxed on the sand and explored the neighboring beach towns. That night we went out to an amazing dinner where we got to stuff ourselves with the meats like lamb and beef that had been in such short supply during our months spent in Asia. We also shared some beers, listened to some live music, and caught up with each other.
We got to explore downtown Brisbane on our second day, wandering into town to an area called South Bank Sheree had recommended. We grabbed a picnic lunch from the grocery and enjoyed their riverfront park, complete with real sand beach pools (yes!). We lounged around eating and swimming before continuing down through town along the riverfront. We saw the theater, central outdoor market, and most expensive sign in Brisbane (apparently the government spent a TON of money on a large art piece that says “Brisbane” – Andrew was not amused). Our tour of town ended with beers at a German place on the water. We loved the laid-back vibe of the city. It gave us all a very similar feeling to Cincinnati, which we greatly appreciated after spending so much time in places utterly unlike home. We ended the evening with bar trivia, in which half the questions were Aussie specific putting Andrew in the hot seat.
Andrew managed to get the next two days off work and was able to play tour guide to us Americans. We found him to be the most wonderful and knowledgeable host. He took us to a park near his childhood home where we got to see koalas, wild kangaroos, and several species of birds including kookaburra and cockatoos. We headed out into the hills of Canungra where we did some light hiking in Binna Burra, saw a massive recently fed python, and tasted delicious wines at O’Reilly’s Vineyards. We played with the vineyard owner’s overly excitable dog, Rosie, and I made Andrew retrieve my sunglasses out of an eel-infested stream. The next day he took us out to Byron Bay where we could see the lighthouse, absorb the laid-back vibes of the town, and sample some local beer. Andrew was also kind enough to explain the rules of Australian football to us as we watched a match at the bar.
Our final day in town was also amazing. Although we could only stay until around 2:00 p.m. before we caught our flight onto Sydney, we made the most of it. Andrew and Sheree invited us to a cookout/party they were having with their friends called “Make Friday Great Again” (it was Good Friday and apparently Aussies are off work that day). We got to hang out with a group of amazing people and drink beer and spirits while feasting on cheese and grilled meats. Sheree even shared her jello-shot filled chocolate easter eggs with us (I am totally stealing this idea btw). We spent our remaining hours in town laughing and celebrating, thanking our hosts graciously for their hospitality and feeling especially lucky we had ran into them on our boat cruise in Greece.
Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed Brisbane. As I said before, it felt a lot like home and was made even more wonderful by Andrew and Sheree. Well, that and the fact that wine, cheese, and excessive quantities of meat were now readily available to us again. The city has a lot going for it and is definitely a place I would like to return to again someday. And I certainly hope our friends will take us up on our offer to host them in the future. We would love tp return the favor.