Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Day 9: Byron Bay to Brisbane


We dragged our tired bodies up at 4.30am so as to catch the sunrise. It was pitch black outside and there were hardly any street lighting. We got lost trying to find out way to Cape Byron Lighthouse....luckily, we met a helpful jogger (still can't believe she was jogging before 5am in the morning) who pointed us in the right direction.

The lighthouse was perched on top of the Cape Byron Headland...and with an elevation of more than 100m, the roads leading up the lighthouse were pretty steep. Hence instead of walking, we decided to drive. And because we knew that free parking was very limited, we wanted to get there as early as we could. What do you know - we were the earliest birds and we got our worm - the best parking lot! We had to walk up the last steep stretch to reach the lighthouse but we were too engrossed in the stunning views of the ocean, beaches and plunging cliffs to whine.

It was very cold 'cos the winds were really strong....some of my fellow early-birds came with fleece blankets tightly wrapped around their bodies. And all I had on was my thin holey cardigan which didn't serve much of a function. Thank goodness it wasn't too long before we saw the sun peeking through the clouds...sending streaks of golden rays everywhere and casting an orangey glow on everything that the ray touched. A crowd had gathered at this most easterly point of the mainland to witness this magical moment. It was silence all round as everyone seemed to be holding their breath. We just stood rooted and watched.

And as the sun rose higher into the sky, the lighthouse was like a chameleon..changing colors. It was interesting to see how it looked under different lighting conditions. RG and I are huge lighthouse fans. It's hard to verbalise why I'm so intrigue by lighthouses but a few words do come to mind - strength, guidance, romantic, loneliness, contemplation and connectedness. Looking at the lighthouses, you can just imagine the loneliness of a lighthouse keeper, yearning human contacts. He'd spend most of his time in self-contemplation. He'd watch the changing ocean and sky all day from the lighthouse and as such, grow to become deeply connected with nature. It's a difficult and lonely job but he chooses to do it because he knows that ships need that guiding light to steer clear of danger and to continue on the right path of their voyage.

Besides the beautiful lighthouse and sunrise, the views from above the Cape Byron Headland were just as breathtaking. Looking north, we could see right up to Gold Coast and looking south, we could see Broken Head and beyond. See how this fella was risking his life of falling down 100m of the rocky cliff just to capture a great shot! Perhaps being up there made us feel almost invincible.

The below is a photo of the Cape Byron Lighthouse seen from the main beach.

The beaches at Byron Bay are as pretty as those in Gold Coast (if not prettier). The fine-grained sand was white and gleaming in the sun and the water a clear turquoise-blue. If there's indeed paradise on earth....this could be it!

The walls of the public shower areas were covered in cheeky paintings. We knew that several of Byron's beaches were nude beaches....but unfortunately, we weren't lucky enough to see any nudist that morning! =P

From the main beach, we headed towards the town centre where we found many shops and eateries It seemed that Byron Bay attracts an interesting mix of people from all over the world with its friendly, relaxed and very laidback atmosphere. After our early morning walk, our stomachs started to growl. Breakfast was some fresh-out-of-oven sandwiches and rolls bought from a little hole-in-wall store along the road. On our way back to the car with our breakfast, we caught sight of the below poster advertising for "The Res-erection Tour" of Puppetry of the Penis Remember I mentioned earlier in my Sydney post that we had watched the performance in year 2000? Well, after so many years of touring around the world and gaining much fame, these guys had finally returned to Australia where it all bagan. If not for the fact that we were leaving Australia the next day, I would have really liked to watch the show again....for old time sake.

After breakfast, we packed up and left for Brisbane which was only a 2hr drive away. We thought we could just drive all the way to Brisbane without stopping but we were wrong. Because we had woken up so early this morning, we were dozing off at the wheel. We realised it was too risky for just a split second of close-eye on the wheel might result in a serious accident. So we stopped at a rest area along the way to refresh ourselves before continuing on our journey.

As in the case of Sydney, we didn't want to have to drive into the Brisbane we had booked an accommodation in South Brisbane just across the river. Our accommodation was at the Central Hillcrest The cost was A$109 for a deluxe room which was very affordable. The room was spacious with a balcony, huge bathroom and coffee making facilities. From our balcony, we could see the Brisbane CBD. Although not within the CBD, the Central Hillcrest is just a short walk to South Bank and the CBD and there are several subway stations in the nearby vicinity. We were so sleepy that we decided to take a nap immediately after checking into our room.

So we woke up at about 2pm (QLD time) and got ready to explore Brisbane city. From Central Hillcrest, it was just a 5min walk to the southern end of the South Bank Parklands where the Queensland Maritime Museum is located

From there, we crossed the vehicle-free Goodwill Bridge which was just one of the links between South Bank and the city. The bridge was just less than 500m long but we were able to enjoy nice views of the South Bank, river and the city when we were on the bridge. And at the end of the bridge, we had reached Queensland University of Technology and the Botanic Gardens.

After a nice walk in the Botanic Gardens, we walked down Albert Street and found ourselves a nice little chinese eatery for some zi-char. Lunch was 2 rice sets with stir-fried chicken, claypot tofu and soup. For once, the chinese food actually tasted like chinese food!
Having satisfied our hunger for some Chinese food, we headed towards Queen Street Mall where the main action was. There were many major shopping malls on Elizabeth St one of which was the QLD's largest Myer department store - an eight storey tall shopping complex. We also took a leisure walk around Adelaide and Ann Street. At the southern end of the Queen Street Mall was a gigantic X'mas tree which brought much x'mas joy to this pleasant city. Below are some photos of the street scenes.

The girl in the middle has a wind-up key stuck to her back!

At the end of Queen Street, we crossed the Victoria Bridge to go back to South Bank. Below is a shot of the Riverside Expressway from the bridge.
Then we started walking from the northern end of the South Bank parklands towards the other end. Although I think it's kinda weird to have a beach (man-made) right in the middle of the city, the parkland development is nevertheless a nice thought by the government to provide a relaxing and beautiful public area for people to gather for a swim, walk, jog, play, BBQ, eat, watch a performance, ride the ferris wheel and exercise. It is no wonder that the parklands development has won numerous awards such as the best public sector development in the world by the International Real Estate Federation and the world’s best downtown public space by the International Downtown Association. If you are visiting Brisbane anytime soon, I'd definitely recommend a trip to South Bank for a romantic evening stroll and enjoy a sumptous dinner at one of the many riverside restaurants and cafes.

Street art in Brisbane city.

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