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Living it up.........Down Under !

  • Submitted by: Monica, India
  • Submission Date: 10th Feb 2009

After an arduous almost a day long flight journey, one realised why Australia is referred to as Down Under – because it literally is !! Changing and hopping flights from one continent to another and moving from one time zone to the other had become a routine for us for a full day – till my husband and I reached the Brisbane airport where it was refreshing to stretch out in the bright daylight and breathe in fresh air. A night’s halt at Brisbane was well needed to get over the jetlag of changing time zones. After getting the feel of the city, which primarily has an industrial setup in the backdrop of the Brisbane River, it was time to move on to Gold Coast, our destination for the first three days in Australia.

On reaching Gold Coast, one could feel the cool breeze in the air, thanks to the surrounding cool blue waters. While our shuttle meandered through the city, we noticed the lifestyles of the rich and famous within - private parking areas for the cars in front of the house and for the motorboats/ yachts in the backyard which connects to the bay, markets bustling with tourists and locals from different stratas of life. However, all distinctions between the people merged when they reached the golden sands of the city - possibly that’s how the Gold Coast seems to have picked its name – all of whom had one common objective of sunning and surfing on the shores. The shuttle dropped us in our hotel ‘Q1’ which is the world’s tallest residential tower with 78 floors and after checking-in, we were ushered into our apartment on the 27th floor. The plush interiors of the apartment and the beautiful view of the beach on Surfers’ Paradise were breathtaking. Since it was autumn (remember we were in the southern hemisphere….), the day was surprisingly a sunny day instead of being overcast with clouds. Without wasting a moment, we changed into our beachwear and rushed to the beach which was walking distance from our hotel. The beach was adorned by sun-bathers, surfers, teenagers engaged in beach sports and mostly with people like us who were walking aimlessly to enjoy the sunny beach and the activities.

Just before sunset, we headed to the Q1 Observation Deck which is on the 78th floor of our hotel. From ground zero to 78th floor in less than a minute in the lift ! I am sure you will not believe it – nor did we when we were told of this fact by the staff – till we experienced it for ourselves, and that too without any jerks or dizziness in the lift. Once on top of the building, we got a panoramic view of the Gold Coast City and were wonderstruck with its expanse on land and the never-ending blue waters. As if it was not enough for the first day, we spent the rest of the evening gallivanting in the city streets and enjoying the carnival-like mood, very typical of its weekends.

The following day was overcast with clouds and started drizzling by the time we got ready to start our day. However, the rains did not deter us from visiting Australia’s leading marine park in Gold Coast – The Sea World. The shuttle dropped us at the theme park and soon we were ushered into resort, spread out over several acres of land. This place is a haven for one and all to experience the variety of underwater world life including sharks, dolphins, polar bears, penguins, sea lions and some other threatened species which are being preserved in this park. Other attractions include thrill rides, helicopter flights for a bird’s view of Gold Coast, water ski shows, and of course various food options to suit everybody’s palate. However, the highlight of the day was the dolphins’ show that took place in the park’s vicinity and the audience was left spellbound with the antics performed by these intelligent and friendly creatures.

Next morning, we headed to the commercial capital of Australia – Sydney. After dumping our stuff, we vroomed off to make the best of the sunny day in town. After an introductory drive around downtown, our first halt was at the Bondi Beach – one of the expensive areas and famous spots in Sydney on a bright day. And what a sight it was on the beach – the glimmer in the eyes of the men folk was self explanatory !! Next we moved to the Watsons’ Bay, from where the view of Sydney’s skyline is very impressive and tourists also take off for ferry rides. Walking through the Robinson’s Park, we went across the Bay to the Sydney Harbour National Park from where we got a beautiful view of the serene blue waters of the Pacific. And the main attraction here is the Gap Bluff which has unfenced cliffs and unstable areas – one slip and you head for a straight drop down into the waters never to re-surface – understand that it is a big hit with the compulsive murderers, and why not – they can easily get away with the murderous push as an accidental fall ! And before my husband could get any ideas, I scuttled him away from the spot to check out landmarks of Sydney – the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge – in the sunset. And what a sight it was from the Milsons Point (just under the Bridge) – the orange hues on these structures as also the downtown is a view to be cherished. And the simultaneous usage of the bridge by various modes of transport – trains, cars, buses, bicycles and of course pedestrians – was an interesting peculiarity which is specific to this bridge. Of course, we also had the option to climb the Harbour Bridge but I preferred to be a distant spectator of those indulging in the activity. With the promise to spend more time at these landmarks, and content with a heavily packed first day in Sydney, we returned home for a good night sleep.

Next morning, we visited the Opera House only to be disappointed that a tour inside was not possible since a concert was underway. We consoled ourselves by taking a mini-train ride within the Royal Botanical Gardens close-by, and besides the large variety of flora, we witnessed couple of weddings within its precincts. We also noticed the Fort Denison within the Pacific Ocean where convicts sent by the British were imprisoned…..same concept as that of Fort Alcatraz in San Francisco (USA).

We began our next day with a visit to the Darling Harbour which is a treat for all. After strolling around for some time to watch the roadside cafes bustling with activity, children queued up outside the IMAX theatre or candy shops, and admiring the yachts docked in the harbour, we chose the Wildlife World and the Aquarium for sighting some exotic animals. We were left wonderstruck with the plethora of animals, birds and insects inside this place……not to forget to mention the marine life. While my husband enjoyed the sharks, I was floored by the wallabies and the koala bears ! We were fortunate to check out a wallaby pocketing its young one, and some antics of the otherwise lazy sleepy but cuddly koala bears. After a quick bite in the Food Court of the Sydney Tower, we took the lift to reach the observatory deck of the Tower to get a bird’s view of the city buzzing with life. The aerial view of the plush well manicured Hyde Park, the Sydney Cricket Ground which is an architect’s as well as a cricket fan’s delight, the Central Business District which houses the who’s-who corporate bodies, the Queen Victoria Building which boasts of spectacular European architecture and the best brands/ labels of clothes, accessories, antiques, chocolates, etc. etc. from around the world all housed under one roof, and of course the Harbour Bridge were some of the prominent sights to the endless Sydney.

Early next morning, being sunny, we headed out with our friends for the Blue Mountains, which is one of the most famous tourist spot about 50 kms away from Sydney. We were intrigued by the unusual name of the mountains and on enquiry, we were apprised that it is widely believed that when light is reflected off the eucalyptus trees forming the forest area, a bluish coloured haze spreads across the entire mountain range, and hence the name. Our excitement to relish this view was dampened when it became misty and started drizzling just as we approached the Katoomba Village, from where these mountains are best viewed. Hoping against hope that this cloudy weather would become clear and sunny again and soon, we whiled away our time window-shopping in the village, feasting ourselves to freshly baked hot waffles with chocolate sauce and cappuccino. And lo behold ! it seemed the (Australian) Gods did not wish us to miss this opportunity and the weather did clear out – the sun shone bright and we noticed the blue haze over the mountains……finally ! We also noticed the ‘Three Sisters’ – peaks which are the landmark for this place. We also took the skyrail ride down into the thick forests, and enjoyed playing peek-a-boo with the ‘Three Sisters’ as we went through the gorges. For all those people who love to experience the adrenalin rush, this is a must-do ride. Way back was in a glass trolley which was an easier ride and we could enjoy the scenic beauty this place offers.

On way back, we reminiscenced the beautiful times we had not only at the Blue Mountains but in Australia as a whole, since it was time to wrap up our trip, bid adieu to our friends and return home to India the next day. But the return flight journey seemed less tiring as we had additional company with us - our pictures - each of which narrated a story of the adventurous and crazy moments in Australia, brought smiles on our faces, and left us wanting more of this admirable country.