With five American friends, all of whom I've met since arriving here in Australia, I headed to Brisbane, capital city of Queensland, early on a Thursday afternoon almost two weeks ago. We flew on Jetstar, one of the many budget carriers here (roundtrip airfare was only A$100!). Although many people have indicated that Jetstar is one of those "you get what you pay for" carriers, I was not disappointed by the flight, except for the cheesy music that was played on the overhead speakers during takeoff and landing, and the baby that wouldn't stop screaming at the top of its lungs for the last 30 minutes of the flight.
Brisbane, although only an hour's flight away, was noticeably warmer than Sydney, a welcome change. We rode the monorail into the city, and met up with the girl whose apartment we were planning to stay in. That night, we went out to a bar in the city where they had karaoke. I sang "Don't Look Back in Anger" by Oasis, one of my top 5 favorite songs, and the ladies were swooning.
The next morning we woke up early to board a Greyhound for the Sunshine Coast, a coastal region north of Brisbane. Most people have heard of the Gold Coast, which is south of Brisbane, and has all the amusement parks and the town of Surfer's Paradise. We ended up in Noosa, a quaint town that is a popular vacation destination for Australians. Our lodgings were at the Noosa North Shore resort, which was only reachable by ferry across a river. Interesting note: Richard Branson, owner of Virgin (Blue / Atlantic / Records / Mobile / Galactic) had just bought an island up the river for A$2.86 million and was currently in the process of building a free getaway for his employees on it.
Our accommodations were incredible; for $25 a night each we had our own unit with 2 bedrooms, a lounge with couch and TV, a kitchen, and a patio which opened up to a pool and fields where wild kangaroos grazed during the day. We walked down the road about 3K to the beach, which was deserted except for the occasional Jeep driving by, and relaxed for a while. Later that night we headed into town for dinner at a Thai restaurant and an alcohol run at Dan Murphy's, which advertised the cheapest liquor prices in Australia. I think I'll be forever remembered for drinking Gaymer's hard cider.
The next morning we spent riding camels on the beach, which was an awesome experience. Camels are a semi-native animal in Australia, having been imported over a hundred years ago. They only come in the one-humped variety. The ones that we were riding were all males that had been caught in the outback. Camels like to smell your breath (that's where the picture below comes from). They can also pee for up to 10 minutes straight. Enough with the camel facts, though. You mount and dismount a camel when it is sitting down, and then hold on tight while it gets up (or down). They move pretty fast, and the ride is comfortable although a bit bumpy.
We returned to Brisbane that afternoon, and took an easy night watching a movie. The next day we got a late start. The guys split from the girls, who wanted to check out the man-made beach. We rented bikes and explored the city, checking out the main bridge over the river which was a bit like the Sydney Harbor Bridge redux and the parks that ran alongside the river. Then we went rock climbing at Kangaroo Point Cliffs, a rock wall spanning a long section of the river. It was sunset, so there were lights illuminating the cliff, and after I got to the top I was able to enjoy the brightly-lit skyline of Brisbane. The climb was my first on a real rock wall, and it was much taller than any artificial wall I've ever climbed.
Unfortunately, we had to leave the next morning, but it was helped by the fact that I had missed all of my Monday classes by the time we got back to school. Be sure to check out Flickr for a picture of Sydney from the window of the plane and other camel shots!