Again I left a tropical paradise and travelled overnight to Brisbane. I slept through the Sunshine Coast and arrived in Brisbane at six am. What a lovely city. An interesting mix of old and new architecture all jumbled together. Several nice bridges over the river, botanical gardens along the river bank. I was still in the city centre after dusk and the city buildings lit up but so did the Christmas decorations. That just felt odd, being in such a warm place.

The hostel in Brisbane was purpose built and the best of all that I stayed in, in Australia. Again there was a varied mix of people and nationalities, America, Canadian, Kiwi’s, all sorts of European’s, an Israeli guy and several other Poms.

The art gallery was a new building, opened in 1982, so lovely huge galleries, great lighting and hanging arrangements. I enjoyed an afternoon browsing there.

I spent time at “Lone Pine” Koala Sanctuary. There were lots of animals as well as koalas but I did get to hold a koala and have my photo taken. They make a very odd sound. There was a huge kangaroo enclosure where you walked amongst the animals. Mums with joey’s in their pouches. One of the wardens had an Alsatian dog with him, with the dog carrying a koala around on his back. Cute.

I went to the cinema a couple of times in Brisbane. I saw an Australian movie “Burke and Wills” about the explorers. I also watched “St Elmo’s Fire” so that movie has always been linked in my memory to my travels in Australia.

I made my one and only collect phone call back to the UK to confirm my flights details. It was snowing there, which seemed very odd as I watched six people wander past dressed up as Santa but in the Queensland summer heat.

I stayed with more friends of friends in Toowoomba for a couple of days and was able to “earn my keep” by babysitting their three year old twins. I had an afternoon and evening back in the world of “Sesame Street”, afternoon kiddies tea, bath time and bedtime stories.

Toowoomba is inland but sits on the edge of The Great Dividing Range of mountains and national park. The house was lovely with stunning views. It was nice to stay in house again after six weeks of hostels. I had a room to myself and no queues for a shower.

I arrived on the Gold Coast on the day that Queensland’s first legal casino opened. Along with the end of the school year and kids going to Surfer’s Paradise for their “schoolies” holiday week. The town was crazy busy. There were only casinos in Tasmania and in Alice Springs at that time.

The Gold Coast is a different side of Australia. Adventure parks, hydro-slides, wave pools, roller coasters, high rise buildings. Surfer’s Paradise is a city right on the beach. There is swimming on the beach between flags, but the beach was busy all day. Lifesavers are on duty between the flags, with a speed boat and a helicopter patrolling the length of coast. The currents are very strong along these beaches. Strong surf that was hard to stand up in as the waves crashed to shore, then strong drag and undertow as the waves pulled out.

The hostel was only a couple of blocks from the beach and had it’s own swimming pool. Another good crowd who were happy to socialise in the evenings and visit local pubs with live music. We walked back via the beach where the surf looked silver in the moon light.

I walked along the beach for hours, down to Burleigh Heads. I spent time on the beach, swimming and re-read the novel “A Town Like Alice”. It was good to read again now that I had experienced some of the places first hand.

I spent one night in Ballina but I was too late to get the bus out to Byron Bay, the most easterly point in Australia. Instead I paid for a motel room, double bed, TV and strolled around Ballina, along the causeway to the beach, past pelicans and fishermen. After the bustle of Surfer’s this was a quiet peaceful and relaxing place so I stayed put, swam and sunbathed and walked over the headland to Shelly Beach.