Gold Coast, 26th -27th September
We are glad the bats let us sleep last night - kinda. Now we roll up the sleeves and start packing the car again - a routine that is becoming painfully repetitive in our heads. At least this morning we know that we won’t have to do it again for the next four nights. We quickly discovered that around built-up areas (the six cities on the continent) finding campsites isn’t easy. And that could mean only one thing - AirBnBs, a real bed and a real bathroom!
Before we leave for our next destination we can have one more walk around Byron Bay - the last few hours of New South Wales. We dive into the hipster culture again, drop into a few shops, look for breakfast and finally find the vital nutritional yeast (a compulsory food group in any vegan diet haha!).
While we have breakfast we observe some interesting events on the pavement in front of the cafe - a man sitting on a chair “reading” the palm of the lady opposite him. We are too far to hear her future but it is easy to understand how confident he speaks and how sure she is in his rightness. For half an hour he waves around and explains as she nods and at one point even wipes away a tear … Wow, this man has quite the gift. As I start considering going to him too but following the first one, another lady sits. It doesn’t take me long to decode in his gestures that he is explaining the exact same things he did half an hour ago. How easy it is for people to recognise themselves in a stranger’s words when they are predisposed ...
Enough, Byron Bay! Let’s cross the border and start the Queensland chapter - the land of the Queen (Victoria), the Sunshine State, territory 7 times the British one and 13 times lower than the GB’s population! Home to the Great Barrier Reef, the islands Whitsundays, Magnetic, Fraser and so many more. With its capital Brisbane, 200 national parks, a dinosaur triangle, long beach strips and subtropical climate, Queensland has so much to offer! And we shall accept it.
Our first stop under the Queensland sun is Gold Coast. Something like the Black Sea, Golden Sands but with Australian scale. Ocean, sand and entertainment. Although for me the Bulgarian sea and warm, welcoming waters can’t compare to some Coral Sea. Gold Coast - the host for the 2018 Commonwealth Games (here is the point I had to explain the Commonwealth in the Bulgarian version as no one would know what I am talking about :D).
We have plenty of time before the check-in at our AirBnB, so we head straight to the beach - Miami Beach to be exact. The beach of Gold Coast is huge and long and from here you can see the typical “postcard” of the resort - ocean, beach and the city’s skyline. You clearly haven’t been here if you haven’t taken that picture too.
We find a bench by the beach and sit for a while. Nic is researching the options for tourism and food around while I catch up with diary writing. It is still quite early on in the season for the sun but it is doing its best to keep us warm. Not that we aren’t in full summer gear already - short and t-shirts all day long. We use the early afternoon for a leisurely walk in the neighbourhood and a delicious lunch. And then the time comes to get to the AirBnB - tonight we have decided to stay in and relax to recharge for tomorrow.
Oh, how we regret this decision! I am sure she had the best intentions, but our hostess wants to be so helpful and needed, that it quickly turns into a great nuisance. You may say I am too negative, however, I think no person above the age of 6 requires instructions on how to flush the toilet or use a door lock. And even less so with the patronising tone, every single word is being delivered with. Thank you, but stupid we are not!
We discuss where we all come from, and I am surprised that not only she already knows that I am Bulgarian but also uses Dobrich in the conversation. Hmm, where did she see that and how did she remember it - the AirBnB site gives more information than I expected … We check the house rules and ask if we’ll be given keys, but we are quickly assured that she is “always here!”. Oh, yay!
Regardless we stay in the house all evening. The late lunch means we won’t need a big dinner so we lock ourselves into our room with limited toilet breaks. I do not want to be rude to the lady, but this obsessive behaviour is too much and completely unnecessary. I feel like I am visiting a Bulgarian aunt that I haven’t seen in years (which there’s a reason for) - her mentality is exactly the same.
And yet I must say that the house is lovely - big, open, with many rooms, incredibly clean and very stylish, with a garden and a pool, with a comfortable bed and fluffy bedding and a parking spot. From this point of view, we can’t complain about a second. At least it was so nice staying in all night - so relaxing!
Given yesterday’s event we start the day with some reluctance in leaving the room. I, however, have an escape - it is a day for hair washing. Nic should be careful while making a quick breakfast though. Of course, he had full guidance on how to use the toaster, which fork to pick up and how to wash dishes. As I join him in the kitchen I hear her say how English of him it was to be in the kitchen instead of me. Hmm … I call that equality!
Just as we are about to step outside for the day she comes in front of me and takes my hands into hers saying: “My dear...” Oh no! I feel the criticism coming about me not fulfilling my wife duties properly! But, no! She tells me unexpected news instead. Although we talked about this yesterday she just now decided to share she is also Bulgarian. In a bit of a shock, I switch to Bulgarian and ask “Where from?” (“Otkude?”) and receive a response in English “from Varna”.
She pulls me to some shelving next to our room to show me a certificate with her full name. She expected that as I have passed it a few times I should have noticed it on my own. We continue the conversation in English discussing - Balchik, Varna and Dobrich; Australia and Gold Coast; her life here and the lack of a man in it ...
With great efforts, I keep my cool and a kind and friendly tone, answer her questions and nod to her explanations. I can’t easily accept that I am talking to a Bulgarian completely in English. I know that she means no wrong but her behaviour is obsessive and her lack of confidence in her own roots - sad. I can’t hide the impatience for her to let us outside so we can finally be tourists in Gold Coast.
Eventually, that happens and we head towards Southport. The weather is sunny and hot and the coastal paths- full of children on a school break. I was heavily impressed by this part of Gold Coast because of the social design of the parks. Firstly, I immediately notice everywhere around us colourful benches and sunbeds in blue, orange and yellow. I quickly place myself on one of them with a nice background for a photoshoot. And the background is deserving! - the marina and the Gold Coast skyline, this time from the Northern side although we are in Southport.
The alleyways are full of all kinds of free activities for kids. Starting with the typical for Australia natural playgrounds, through mall trains, to temporary science experiment tables, specially organised for the school break. All you can wish for is to be a kid in this park on a sunny day like today. I can also imagine how grateful the parents are for all this free entertainment.
I got to know the natural playground in better detail when we visited them in Perth with the four-year-old Ana-Maria. The typical European colourful and samey facilities can hardly be seen around here. Step by step all playgrounds are being updated to unique areas, designed with natural materials typical for the place. This, according to architect Kolarov, is worth great admirations as outstanding engineering work is clearly funded just for a kids playground. Some have just tall columns with hanging ropes to pull, some are whole houses, slides and swings. They are built only with whatever Nature has to offer - wonky wooden beams and branches, thick sailing ropes, huge rocks … As if the children are playing in nature. Mum and dad were truly impressed - the horror of kids playing around spiky, rough rocks of Europe! Here - it is sought after!
We continue the walk - the parks have no end and get even bigger. There is a blow-up park in the water too. If it wasn’t paid for and the water wasn’t cold I would be first up on it - after all, I have my bikini in the backpack. The design of Southport’s coast clearly had one goal - entertainment and relaxation. There are no shops and restaurants around us. Just beach and happy children! How could one not be impressed!
Time flies walking around the colourful park and our tummies want lunch. Okay, time to see the heart of this golden coast - Surfers Paradise (the one and only!). Whoever you ask, wherever you look, you will always find that this is the place that makes Gold Coast famous. Today, this is one of the biggest surf locations for the Australians (up there with Bondi, Manly and Byron Bay). Around it - a huge shopping and entertainment centre has flourished, offering anything you could desire.
Driving on the street entering the neighbourhood I have to open up the sunroof to see the whole picture. The infrastructure of the city, all the luxurious hotels, the wide street, the palm trees, the ocean and the beaches - everything we see is straight out of a Hollywood film in Florida. If someone had dropped me here without telling me where I am I would answer without thinking Miami - it is the same. (And no self-respecting Miami guest would travel in a car with a roof or would at least open the sunroof!)
We park with great difficulty (the height with the tent on top would end up being our worst enemy when parking in a city throughout the whole trip) and we get out on the surfer square under the sun. The beach is on the left, on the right - everything else. Luxurious ocean life everywhere. We quickly find an important element to take pictures of - the mascot of the 2018 Commonwealth Games. Why is it so important? The company I worked for in Manchester had some involvement in the sustainable planning of the games, so they are close to my heart and the blue creature lived on my desk as a stuffed toy.
Now … there is an important decision to be made. Will we, at last, go for our first ocean dip or will we sit in a nice café somewhere to do some work? What torture to decide as we do want to go to the beach but know that it will be cold even in this perfect day; but we also want to be productive though it seems to be very boring of us. Oh, life-determining decisions!
With our tourist hearts broken the decision is made - we should at least once be responsible adults, so we set off looking for a café with plugs. It took us an eternity to finally find a Starbucks in the small streets, but I am not complaining too much. Having to walk around this much meant we get to see the buzzing, broad alleys of Surfers Paradise. Once we sit down in the café we don’t realise how quickly four hours pass - Nic is programming Helen’s app and I sort and edit the wedding pictures (it was about time as today is 2 months since the big day). Our “desk” neighbour even chats us up thinking we are travelling photographers with this many pictures to edit. We aren’t, just recently married.
Eventually, shame catches up with us that we’ve been occupying the Starbucks tables all this time so we leave. It turns out that it is now dark outside. So we are left with no choice but to wander the evening street, find dinner and postpone getting back to the AirBnB to our darling Bulgarian hostess.
I wouldn’t say Gold Coast is my sort of destination - the lack of all kinds of history and culture (other than surfer and commercial) makes it a relatively unattractive place for my wants. And yet I can’t hide it - the place is wonderful. The ocean views are unbelievable, and the social areas, designed with wide paths that even the most colourful shops cannot fill. I might not be a resort-type tourist, but I recommend this one. It is different; it is rich; it is beautiful!
Vassya (and Nic)