Brian, Yvonne and I boarded the Qantas flight from Perth to Brisbane and after about 5 hours crossing this huge country from West to East we landed in Brisbane, capital of the sunshine state of Queensland, Australia. Cousin Carol (Yvonne’s sister) was waiting at the airport terminal to whisk us to the seaside town of Caloundra, just an hour’s drive away from Brisbane.
We had never met Carol before, but over the following few days we got to know her well since she allowed us a glimpse into her life and entertained us with many stories about their family move to Australia as “ten pound pom” migrants. She is a storyteller with a big personality and a very generous heart, we stayed at her lovely home in Caloundra from Thursday 9th of February to Monday 13th of February.
The “ten pound poms” was a term used to describe British migrants who were part of the “Assisted Passage Migration Scheme” designed to substantially increase the Australian population and supply workers for the country’s booming industries. The scheme lasted from post WWII 1945 until 1972 and attracted over one million people from the British Isles. The cost of travelling was subsidised by the Australian government charging £10 for the fare ( in 1945 £10 would in 2015 be the equivalent of £ 389) per adult, and children travelled free of charge. Many migrants found that on arrival in Australia many of the government promises of better housing, jobs and a better lifestyle in general were not so readily available.
Carol and Yvonne remembered their arrival as being quite hard for their parents, their father Alec didn’t find employment in Fremantle and Perth where they first arrived and eventually the family of five ( mum, dad and three kids) moved to Geelong, near Melbourne, where Alec got a job at Ford. Carol tells us that her mum Rita missed Scotland a lot and took her over 20 years to fully embrace life as an Australian.
Carol organised a great exploring itinerary for us, starting with the 100 acre Australia Zoo, made famous by the late Steve Irwin whose wild life series “The Crocodile Hunter” was a favourite of my son James as he was growing up. Steve died in 2006 aged only 44 after being stabbed in the chest by a stingray barb during filming of one of his underwater documentary films at Batt Reef, Queensland. The zoo is now owned by Steve’s widow Terri Irwin, although it was originally founded by Steve’s parents Bob and Lyn Irwin in early 1970’s when it was called Queensland Reptile and Fauna park. Steve’s passion for animal’s and conservation is evident throughout the park, there are pictures of him wearing his signature khaki shorts frolicking with crocodiles and other animal’s all around the Zoo. He considered conservation the most important part of his work.
For me a visit to the Zoo was also an opportunity to get very close and personal to the elusive Koala. The Koala has big fluffy ears, and very soft skin. I was delighted to be able to hold and snuggle up to a Koala for few minutes, even though she did give me an unwanted present…a small poo that I just gently let it go from the hand that was under her bottom.
There are plenty of marsupials, mammal, birds and reptiles to see; it is a great day out, with a small train that can take you around the park since it is a very large place with lots to see, in fact we did not manage to see it all in a day.
We also visited the Australia Zoo hospital, dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating all wildlife in need, where the highly skilled team provides a free service to all sick and injured wildlife, from road accident victims to stranded marine animals etc.
On a road trip up the mountains we visited the small town of Montville, in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, part of the the Blackall Range around 400 metres above sea level. It is a charming place that in many ways reminded me of my home town of Canela, high up in the hills with charming wineries, craft and speciality shops and restaurants with great views out to the Glass Mountains and the coastline in the distance. We stopped for lunch to have a meal with a view.
I am from the South of Brazil, gaucho land where having a barbecue is a huge part of our culture. Here in Australia it appears that they also have quite a culture of outdoor barbecues and most beaches and parks will have a barbecue pit. Carol and her son Ian organised a fantastic barbecue at a great location with ocean views and a stunning sunset to boot. What could be a nicer thing to do in a warm summer evening?
There was few picnic tables, but not many freely available, but this nice couple with the dog (above) were so friendly and offered us their table since they had just finished their meal and needed to go home to feed their other animals. We found all the Australians that we met on this trip to be extremely friendly, sociable, fun and easy going. It must be the sunshine that just cheers everyone up.
We had many delicious and memorable meals during our journey around Australia, but it was particularly nice the time we gathered around the dinner table with family to just chat and have a laugh together. In Caloundra Carol booked us a table at this great restaurant near the seafront and we had the opportunity to meet Carol’s granddaughter Beyoncé (yes…named after the R&B American singer) who joined us for the evening.
We did not want to leave Queensland without a little exploring around their Capital city of Brisbane, where on arrival at the town centre we took a ferry to South Bank.
The South Bank Parklands is situated on the Southern banks of the Brisbane River, it has 17.5 hectares of canopied walkways, rain forest, a Nepalese peace pagoda, a 60 metre high “Wheel of Brisbane”, lush laws, eateries, bars, an events open air theatre and a fabulous man made beach boasting a sparkling lagoon style swimming pool complete with a white sandy beach and sub-tropical plants. What is not to like?…such a shame we did not bring our swimming costumes.
It was the hottest day we had so far, with temperatures at around 35 degrees C, but since having a dip in pool was not an option we cooled ourselves down inside a lovely pub for a well deserved meal and a very cold drink.
Our time in this part of beautiful Queensland was soon ending and we were moving towards the next leg of our journey Down Under. Carol and Yvonne drove us to Brisbane airport for our flight to Hamilton Island. It was very emotional to say good bye to our cousins, in particularly knowing that it could be some time before we meet again. It had been an amazing time spent together, not only because of all the wonderful places we visited, but particularly to be able to reconnect with the long lost part of our Scottish family. Thank you so much for having us, we were so well looked after and totally spoiled.
My next post will cover our time on Hamilton Island, Airlie Beach, The Whitsundays and the Great Barrier Reef (Luckily before Typhoon Debbie struck!). Stay tuned for that.
Have you been to Queensland? What are your favourite memories from the Sunshine Coast?