We left early enough for parts further North and drove through what seemed like the banana coast, the coffee coast and areas that bear quite a similarity to Florida, all lush and tropical. I am happy to report that the price of bananas in these parts was a mere $5.99/kg, as compared to up to $20/kg that I spotted in Sydney. You see, they don’t import bananas from other countries here, so the flooding in Queensland this past summer had a devastating effect on the local growers. But it seems that in this little area, there were still growers who had a ready, affordable crop. So when we spotted the first roadside fruit stand, advertizing its affordable bananas, we immediately pulled over to make a purchase. Poor Leon, who loves to eat at least one of these fruit a day (perhaps a potassium craving?) had not been able to indulge himself for at least 2 weeks now.
As we drove into the south of Brisbane, past beautiful Byron Bay, we saw the many amusement parks along the roadside. Something like Anaheim, California, I am told. Brisbane has the wide Brisbane river running through it and is spanned by many bridges. Quite lovely, really. It is sad to think it suffered so much damage back in January, but we couldn’t see any sign of it as we drove to the other end of town to visit our friends Dawn and Darryl. They are friends of Leon’s from his Ottawa days who have immigrated to Australia for better work opportunities. They have a lovely home in the foothills of the Great Dividing Range (or whatever mountains those were nearby). Their neighbourhood reminded me of Calgary with palm trees, if you can imagine that! We had a lovely afternoon and dinner, great conversation and got to know their 2 adorable children a little bit. Of course, we had all kinds of questions about their life in Australia, what it’s like to be an Australian, did their friends and family visit often, etc. It turns out, as Leon had predicted, few friends ever come visit as far as Australia, in spite of their good intentions. Distance and costs are limiting factors for most people. I am all the more grateful my own children will be visiting for a few months. At any rate, we never did see much of Brisbane, but perhaps we can visit another time when we come north during the July holiday.
Today’s travels started a bit late, after a nice breakfast at a nearby cafe. We decided to take the route more westerly on our way back to Melbourne. We have travelled over the Great Dividing Range to what finally looks to be Australia as we expected it. More grasslands, lots of trees, generally flatter, with the colour of late fall, a soft golden ground with plenty of green gum trees. It think the most surprising thing to me as far as the terrain on our travels north was how hilly and mountainous the east coast is. Even most of the big cities had quite a few hills.
Along with the passage over the Great Dividing Range, we’ve found the cooler weather again. Although I think the days are meant to be hotter this time of year. Certainly the nights will be as cool as we have in Bendigo, but we are hoping for a little warmth and sunshine as we make our way to our next destination – Mudgee. The reason we are travelling to that small town, 280 km west of Sydney, is to meet up with some exchange teachers we met in Fiji. We don’t have an address or a phone number, no way to contact them online, but we figured we might leave a business card at their school while we are there. So that’s our plan for tomorrow.
We are still seeking the elusive wild koalas and other wildlife in their habitat, but have seen little except a few mobs of roos on the way to Brisbane, one in a golf course, where they apparently like to graze and relax.