Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Ahhhhhhh, Australia, Pt 1
Sunset in Coolangatta, Gold Coast, Australia
I encourage anyone to visit this fabulous country, even in autumn, as it is one I endeavor to get back to as soon as I can. I say this despite being sequestered in my friend's Rainbow Bay flat for the better part of the first week, as 30-year record rains pelted – and I do mean pelted, I have never seen such a prolonged torrential downpour – the Gold Coast. The first day, not wanting to waste any time, my friend and I took a bus up to Surfer's Paradise, which was very Daytona Beach-esque and frankly not much of a paradise under those conditions. The next day a man died there, after a sign blew off and through his office window, killing him with the resulting shards of glass. You just never know, do you?
Luckily I was with the very best kind of friend, the one who laughs about pretty much everything. We briefly contemplated dressing up and posing at one of those old fashioned picture joints tourist towns are famous for, but decided $50 was too steep. I bought a tiny kangeroo, a requested souvenir for a friend, even though I never saw one the whole entire trip, and we went to a pub called Waxy's and had a couple of pints, and ate a pizza. Then we bought ice cream (honeycomb flavour Maxi bons, a snack so good a Facebook page dedicated to it has almost 16,000 fans) and ate it huddled under a bus shelter waiting to go home. Soaking. That was the last time we were adventurous in the storm.
Do not even get me started on pies, which people eat after the bar instead of pizza or poutine or shwarma or any other late night snack. Chicken and avocado, steak, pecan.... Yummmmmmmmm.
On another night, we sat drinking wine by candlight, the sound of the wind whipping around us, punctuated as the occasional roof ripped off. We slept and watched movies and laughed about stupid stuff, and because I live in hot, humid and dusty Abu Dhabi where it has already been more than 50C this summer, I didn't really mind that the first week of my holiday was heralded by 300mm of rain. After all, at least we didn't have to get evacuated due to flooding, as were two towns near by. And after the rain came, we went out to survey the wreckage. Huge old trees upended, a dirty, foamy surf washing over most of the beaches in the areas, branches everywhere. The cutest old man stopped us on the way back from Pt Danger to ask "is that tree I saw turned over on the telly still up there?" I still think about him, watching the news at home, probably from an easy chair, and then deciding to venture out into the wet and wind to see for himself. It makes me smile.
I spent much of the two weeks on the Gold Coast. My friends live in Tweed Heads, NSW, right on the border with Queensland. So the town is split into two towns, the other being Coolangatta. This makes things interesting during parts of the year when one is an hour ahead of the other. Don't ask me to explain which one. Actually, Australia must really have a record when it comes to time zones. More than Canada, it seems. I'm not looking it up though.
Already I miss walking on the beach, the delish organic restaurant Raw Energy and the wild turkeys. Yes, wild turkeys the size of dogs. The greenery and the trees, which I always took for granted before moving to the desert. There is just no way to replicate that slight nip in the air - even when it's less hot in Abu Dhabi, in the winter, you just don't get that. I didn't realize how much I miss wide open space, and clean air, and puttering around a flat with the doors open, birds squawking away outside, and rarely experiencing air conditioning and, let's face it, feeling confident that I would have to do something quite wrong to get arrested helps a lot with the whole relaxation factor. Barely anyone smokes, unlike here, where everyone does, and it's not allowed inside anywhere – completely lovely. There are loads of these cars about, too, which made me feel like I was back in the 70s.
The people are the friendliest I've found - there was barely a cashier or taxi driver who didn't ask all about us. Unlike here in the UAE, no one mistook me for an Australian. Several people told me they thought my accent was "beautiful", which was funny, because it of course does not seem to me like I even have an accent. Also, the Gold Coast might be one of the most laid-back areas I have ever been. Many people don't wear shoes. I lurked by some soup in Woolworth's to get this shot.