Thursday, 22 July 2010

Living the dream

Our time in Brisbane has been very different in comparison to our time spent in Sydney. Because Dan and I are working ridiculous hours (in excess of 40 per week), it is making excursions (i.e. Blog-worthy material) hard to come by!! Having said that, because I get weekends off, we have been able to plan some day trips.
A few weeks ago Dan managed to get a Sunday off work, so we decided to head up the coast to the Glasshouse Mountains National Park. As there is a train station (and a 'town') called Glasshouse, it seemed only natural to get off the train at that stop. This turned out to be a bad choice. As we stepped off the train I could have sworn I saw a tumbleweed roll past, that's how deserted the place was! However, we weren't too worried, as we were surrounded by mountains, so thought it couldn't be far to the tourist information/courtesy bus/life of some sort.

So, in the midday heat, we set off along the long road towards what appeared to be the epicentre of the mountain range. After nearly two hours, the mountains were getting no closer (if anything they seemed further away!) and both Dan and I were beginning to flake. Although there were cars passing on the road, there didn't seem to be anyone around to ask for directions. We were getting some puzzled looks from drivers, making us think they don't get many people dressed as city folk in those parts!
Anyway, just as we were thinking about turning round and heading back towards the train station, we saw a lady with two dogs on what appeared to be a driveway to a house. Concerned, she asked us if we were lost. We explained our situation and, after consulting with her husband, she kindly offered to run us to the park's lookout. At this point I'd like to point out that we are not the sort of people to get into a car with a complete stranger under normal circumstances. But these were not normal circumstances - we were hot, thirsty, hungry and pretty desperate to get off the ridiculously long road we had been trudging along for what seemed like forever. And besides, the couple seemed so friendly and genuine that, on this occasion, I was willing to bend the rules. Our gamble paid off.
Jannean, as we were to discover, loves travellers. She often helps out backpackers who get lost in the park and has even, on occasions, let them stay in her house. She wanted to know all about Devon and what we were up to in Australia, and talked about the travelling she had done in the past.
Firstly she took us to the lookout, an amazing 360 degree view of the stunning national park. It turned out Jannean is a budding photographer, and she went snap happy taking lots of arty shots of me and Dan!
She then took us on the short nature trail around the side of the mountain, before driving us back down towards her house.
On the way past the lookout cafe, Dan suggested we buy her a drink to say thank you. So, the three of us sat on the veranda of the cafe, in glorious sunshine, drinking milkshakes and eating cake. It was very surreal, as we were chatting as if we had known each other for ages, not just an hour or so.
After our drinks, we assumed Jannean would drive us back to the station, as we'd already taken up a fair bit of her Sunday afternoon. However, she insisted on driving us all round the park, stopping at various vantage points to tell us old folk tales, or to get a good picture. It was like having our own personal tour guide and photographer, all rolled into one.
Finally, she took us to the tourist information which, ironically, was about 50 metres from the train station! It turned out that we had exited the station on the wrong side of the tracks - the whole of Glasshouse town was located on the other side! Again, inside the building, Jannean spent ages talking us through all the different leaflets and diagrams. It was clear that the Glasshouse Mountains are her babies, and she loves talking to people about them.
Four hours later (!) we parted company, after thanking her about a million times for rescuing us and spending so much time showing us around. If it hadn't have been for her our day out would have been very dull indeed, as we would have had to view the mountains from the side of a dusty road. For anyone planning on visiting the mountains I would say 'do it' because they are beautiful, but definitely hire a car (or a Jannean!) to do the leg work for you!
After the excitement of that weekend, Dan and I then didn't do a lot for a couple of weeks, until the weekend just gone. On Saturday night X Factor auditions were being held in Brisbane in front of a live audience. So, during the week, we got tickets to go and watch. However, due to a mix-up with seat allocations, we were informed that we no longer had tickets. I was disappointed, but resigned to the idea that we wouldn't be going. Dan wasn't going to give up so easily! As the tickets were free (the X Factor is new over here, so they are trying to drum up interest) Dan thought it was worth heading over to the auditions anyway, just in case. When we got there a massive crowd had gathered on the stairs to the Entertainment Centre and the presenter was doing various takes whilst the crowd were told to 'go wild' for the cameras.
As soon as the doors opened it became clear there was no way they were going to be checking the names of everyone in the audience, so Dan and I were able to sneak in!
It was so weird to see the famous X Factor stage, and the four empty chairs for the judges. Except over here they were to be filled by Ronan Keating, Natalie Imbruglia, Guy Sebastian (winner of Australian Idol) and the controversial radio DJ Kyle Sandilands rather than Simon Cowell et al.
Before the contestants came out we had to do all sorts of ridiculous things for the producers to use as archive footage - such as looking shocked, booing, laughing etc! It was all good fun, but a bit tedious after a while. I was glad when the first auditionee finally came out. Throughout the night we saw a wide variety of talent, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. My personal favourite was a girl duo, whose name I've forgotten, who sang an Amy Winehouse number. They were sisters, and had clearly been singing together all their lives, as their voices and whole routine just gelled perfectly. I'll be interested to see if they make it past bootcamp and onto the live shows.
The next day was also very busy, as Dan and I had planned to go down to the Goldcoast to visit Dreamworld - Australia's largest theme park. When we visited two years ago we went to the water park next door to it, and thought at the time that we would like to go at some point in the future.
The weather was perfect, making it feel like a real holiday. We got there at about midday, so had a good five hours to go on all the rides and explore some of the attractions aimed at 'kiddies' (!).
Dan wanted to head straight for the 'worst' ride, the Giant Drop, but I said no, as I wanted to work my way up to that one by going on a few smaller ones to start with! I love roller coasters, so really enjoyed the 'motocoaster' and Cyclone. I was less enamoured by Claw - a giant swinging pendulum, which seemed to go on for far too long!!
After going on all the big rides, the only one which remained was the Giant Drop. The more I stood watching the tallest freefall ride in the world, the more I wondered what I was doing in the queue to go on it. The ride stands at 120 metres above the ground and can be seen from, literally, miles around. The ride itself is pretty simple. You are basically hoisted up to the top of the tower, suspended for a good 20 seconds, and then dropped at 135km/h. However, the 20 seconds feels more like 20 minutes!! I just kept focusing on a mountain on the horizon, not daring to look down! Although I was terrified, the adrenaline rush afterwards was awesome and, if it wasn't for the massive queue, I may have even gone on it again.
Come Monday morning, when my alarm went off at 4.15am, I was exhausted but happy to have had such an action-packed, enjoyable weekend.