The day we went to Maleny
Christmas was Brisbane-based this year, for the first time. We had family visiting from the UK and Victoria, and logistics dictated that most travel was going to consist of day trips.
In the second week of December I went for a pre-christmas spruce-up. The beautician was working flat out, she said. A lot of her clients are Melburnians and were getting treatments before returning home for Christmas. Other people have told me how relatively quiet it is in Brisbane at this time of year. The many expats in the city return whence they came to do familial festives, and natives escape summer in the city during the longest school hols of the year.
So I don't know who all those people were clogging up the highways every time we ventured out of the city. Progress was painful, actually. Especially the day we went to Maleny. The motorway was solid in places: I've never seen anything like it in four years of living in Queensland. We came off at Morayfield, thinking we'd take the back roads, and then crawled through endless sets of traffic lights on the road to Caloundra along with like-minds. We had to stop at Woodford for a garage snack to recover from the trauma. Just the four hours from Brisbane to Maleny. What a waste of half a day.
It was almost as bad the day we went to the Gold Coast. It's probably the last time I'll go there. I've really tried to understand why hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people love the Gold Coast, but I just don't get it. We went to the wrong bit of the ocean side of The Spit, admittedly. It was the dog bit. With owners who don't understand why you don't want their lovable mutt sniffing round your sandwich, and can't control their hound well enough when you make it obvious you want it taken away. If you're forced to use a thong (flip-flop) to encourage it to leave, they get all huffy and call you 'tourists'. I watched one man trying to eat his lunch while three dogs, none of which was his, chased each other around him, kicking up sand into his food. Nice. The sand was grubby, and you never knew if you were going to come across a dog deposit: I spotted at least one woman burying rather than scooping.
The Spit separates Southport Broadwater from the ocean. People were packed on to the Broadwater side to such an extent that it reminded me of beaches in the South of France, where bullish Germans position their towels to within a few centimetres of yours. There was the constant background whine of jet skis: you know what a big fan I am of jet skis. There was litter by the roadside and oiks (bogans) in the car park. Where's the pleasure, I ask you? Gold Coast = far too many people = far too many cars and far too much concrete. No thanks. Bah humbug.
But back to Maleny… When we eventually arrived, it was busy enough to make parking a convoy a challenge. Then the heavens opened. It was also problematical deciding among ten people which meal we were having at 2.30 pm, and which shops we should look at. After a while, we escaped to our isolated retreat – nine kilometres down a dirt road west of Mapleton, overlooking the Obi Obi valley – where we were spending the night. With hindsight, after a visit the next day, most of our party preferred Montville to Maleny. (Tour guide take note.)
Our evening and morning in a haven of peace and tranquility bordering Mapleton National Park was an experience we all wished to continue. Imagine my horror upon learning when we were back in Bris that there is a plan for a zipline somewhere in the Obi. The precise details are subject to commercial confidentiality – of course – but it would 'combine natural tranquility with the adrenalin of sliding above and through a pristine natural environment', which seems something of a contradiction in terms to me.
I was reminded of the Dismal Swamp in the Tarkine of northwest Tasmania, where a blackwood forest sinkhole provides a unique, other-worldly environment. The peace is shattered by the screams of people shooting down a covered slide to the forest floor. An extraordinary natural phenomena has had to be augmented by an 'adventure' in order to attract more visitors, which is what they're trying to achieve in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, too.
The days we went to Bribie were the best in many ways. We witnessed the wonderful and the weird about the Aussies. The first day – off-road in the National Park – neither driver engaged brain about driving in soft sand and we soon got bogged, as they say here, even though it was dry as a bone. Almost immediately two guys came up and offered to pull us out. There is a lot to be learned in a situation like this, so if it happens to you, pay attention and heed the experts. Most importantly, if you're a beginner, don't be proud or over-confident and think you can do it alone.
The next visit was in the new year. What a way to spend New Year's Day, eh? Momentarily, I forgot how strange it seems, still, to be christmassy and new-yeary in very hot sunny weather, and just got on with beaching. It was fairly busy, by Woorim Surf Beach standards, and we walked a fair way – in the dog bit I might add – to get away from people. We were soon joined by others, who could easily have walked a little bit further still, but obviously wanted to be with us. I never understand people who'd rather sit virtually on top of someone else than be on their own. What's that about? The best example of this odd behaviour was a group who joined us after lunch. Firstly, they put their stuff behind us next to a pile of rubbish left by previous beach-goers, and then they set up their game of sticks practically in front of us. There was masses of room elsewhere and the tide was out. Funny people. It's a good job they weren't kicking a ball around that close to us: my christmas spirit might have evaporated PDQ.
It wouldn't do for us all to be the same, would it?
On other days we promenaded on the Bay at Wynnum; sweltered on South Bank on one of the hottest days ever; cycled along the river to the Botanic Gardens, where we searched in vain for a Carpet Python; walked around the summit of Mt Coot-tha; viewed from lookouts along the Springbrook plateau; and marvelled at Natural Bridge.
Our next guests arrive in a couple of months. There are obviously quite a lot of excursions around Brisbane to entertain them. But let's hope we can avoid a repeat of the day we went to Maleny.
This posts was last edited on 17 November 2016