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Australian adventures

February 24, 2011

We’d been saving, planning and booking this trip for a couple of years now. It was to be our fourth trip to the land where several of our friends have now made their home, a fine excuse to spend six weeks catching up with them and doing a bit of travelling across the country that has become like a second home for us. A spiritual one at least. Both of us find the Aussie way of life suits us. Relaxed, non-conformist, friendly, and full of opportunities. I wish we had found the courage (and the money) to visit there years ago when our friends emigrated back in 1986, I have a funny feeling we would still be there today.

Still, we are lucky enough to have good friends over there now who are happy to have us stay for a while, and fortunate enough to be able to afford the flights.

Our journey begins in my favourite city, Melbourne. This time we’ll not be staying at Kings as the owners have sold up and retired. A pity, they were very good company and provided us with a home from home – Robyn was full of tips for the best places to visit, the quirkiest restaurants and the most unusual galleries and exhibitions. I wish them well, but the place doesn’t seem the same without them, a serviced apartment isn’t quite the same as a 3 bedroomed boutique hotel full of character and history. Still, the torrential rain (but high temperatures) didn’t stop us having fun. Pete’s cousin now lives out here, and him and his fiancée took us to a fab Thai restaurant one night and a cute basement bar for cocktails. It’s great having a local taking you out to places you’d never find otherwise!

Our fun in Melbourne was marred by one thing, however. The news channels were full of the unimaginable tragedy that was destroying a huge part of Queensland (where we were due to spend over 2 weeks  in a few days time) – flooding on a biblical scale, following the heaviest rainfall in decades – thanks to the phenomenon that is La Niña. Flash floods swept aside Toowoomba, devastated Gympie, and now Brisbane itself was under threat. The modern, bustling, capital city of Queensland began to sandbag for its life as the floodwaters rose. The Wivenhoe Dam had to release some of its water before an even greater disaster could take hold, making the threat of flooding in the city even more imminent. A controlled release of its waters was the lesser of two evils, the thought of anything else was the stuff of nightmares. Glued to this so-called “flood porn” we worried for our friends and their family who lived just south of Brisbane. Thankfully they were unaffected by the flooding, but we were haunted by the images in the media for the rest of our time in this beautiful country. One phoenix rose from the flames – the Queensland premier, Anna Bligh. She appeared on television day and night, fronting countless press conferences; calmly reassuring, taking complete control of the situation. If anyone needed a friend to count on in a time of crisis, she was your woman. One of the most impressive politician’s I have seen for many years, the image of her almost breaking down but stoically taking control will stay with me for a long time to come.

Anna Bligh serving lunch…..

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