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The home of XXXX

Brisbane, Australia
Wednesday, August 01, 2013

The XPT to Brisbane

Sydney to Brisbane is another big distance and most people fly between the two but keeping to our goal of 'by land where practical' we opted for the train. There are two services a day between the 2 cities, an overnight service that goes directly to Roma Street transit terminal in Brisbane and the day service which terminates at Casino, with the last portion of the journey by bus. We opted for the day service as we wanted to see the scenery pass us by. However although it is quite picturesque in places it is nothing special for most of the journey, and coupled with the fact that we then discovered Casino is 228km or a 3½ hour bus journey from Brisbane we were kicking ourselves we didn't opt for an overnight service.

Even though the train journey was 11½ hours it passed by quickly but a further 3½ hours on a bus was just gruelling.

By the time we checked in at the hostel we felt like walking zombies so we were more than happy to crawl into our bunk beds to grab a few zzzz's.... but unfortunately it appeared that we had arrived at another party hostel with loud music and a bar full of noisy people, boy we sound old but it was a good job we had our trusty ear plugs.

We loved Brisbane the last time we visited and we left with some fond memories of this beautiful city. So having done most of the sights and activities on our last visit we decided to spend the mornings exploring the parts of the city we missed out last time and the afternoons back at the hostel booking onward transport which takes a lot longer than most people would think. We are close to finalising our plans and only have a few more bits to do, and we will have everything planned right back to London. Watch this space....

Day 1 - Downtown Bisbane

On our first morning we got up bright and early and walked into the centre of the city to take a look at the Museum of Brisbane which is housed in the grand old City Hall. This was a really well put together museum that has found the perfect balance between telling the story of Brisbane's history and breaking up the chunks of reading material with bright and colourful displays. The exhibit showcasing the 1988 Expo was particularly good. The exhibit was to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Expo which is deemed by many to have shaped modern day Brisbane. Apparently because Expo went on for a whole 6 months and became such a massive part of people's everyday lives, when it eventually came to an end some people were so down about it that an anonymous call centre was opened to help people come to terms with the great loss they felt when it was over. This sounds a bit dramatic but at the end of the 2012 London Olympics we can remember feeling sad and upset that after 7 years of waiting it was all over, so in some respects we can understand how hard it must have been for the people of Brisbane.

There was also a room full of photos showing how different the city has looked over the years. The photos showed the before and after pictures of the CBD and how it went from being flat as a pancake to having high rises just about everywhere. There was also a great section on the Brisbane River which stretches for miles and miles and winds its way through the city and suburbs of Brisbane. This river is the main reason a large settlement was set up here firstly as a closed settlement for convicts but later it was opened up as an open settlement as soon as it was realised that the climate was so good.

Next we visited the Treasury Building that has been converted into a huge casino and is a heritage listed building. Our plan was to spend a few pennies and see the inside of this impressive building but after seeing the outrageous prices for the lockers Sonya decided to go and sit in the sun and chill out whilst Ross went inside for a nosey instead. Whilst sitting outside she spotted a fellow traveller who we have bumped into on a couple of occasions already. We first met him on the tour of the Coopers Brewery way back in Adelaide and then the very next morning on the train from Adelaide to Melbourne, so it's becoming a bit of a habit to bump into him. Ross joined us after losing a few dollars and we had a great chat about where we had travelled to and from and also how long we had been on the road. Both feeling like hardened travellers we proudly told him 6½ months but when we asked him how long he has been on the road and he told us 14 months we were really impressed! We can't imagine being on the road for that long and we take our hats off to him.

After a stroll through the park we made it back to the hostel just before the heavens opened up and set ourselves up ready for an afternoon of booking stuff. We managed to get a few bits sorted, before the wanna be comedian took to the mike to annoy the heck out of us. If he wasn't announcing the evening's entertainment he was banging on about the cheap booze on offer! It was so annoying and we soon wished we could turn off the stupid speaker in our room. By the time he had finished Ross was more than ready to wring his neck!

This annoying drivel went something like this:

"Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls we have some FANTASTIC offers in the bar tonight, so don't miss out ..... Come on folks it'll be totally awesome and groovy baby"

Not only was it annoying but it was totally cringe worthy!

Day 2 - Mt Coot-tha

The next day we jumped on the bus to the Mt Coot-tha Reserve to enjoy the views and fresh air and we weren't disappointed. We had great weather and the blue skies gave us the best view of the city and the Brisbane River. Although a bit hazy on the horizon we could just about see the Moreton Bay Islands in the distance. After spending some time enjoying the sunshine we made our way down the trail to the Botanical Gardens. The trail was a nice walk but strangely it ends in a car park about 1km away from the gardens. The last bit is a walk alongside a main road, they were working on putting in a pavement along a short section of the road but it didn't look like the whole route would get one anytime soon. If you plan to visit both the gardens and the lookout point it's probably best to wait for a following bus to shuttle between the two.

Brisbane has two gardens, an inner city botanical garden that's surrounded by the CBD which prevents it from being expanded and is also prone to flooding. Hence another garden was created at the base of Mt Coot-tha. Although we didn't visit the gardens themselves we went to see the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium which is located in the car park of the gardens. The planetarium was a great place to visit and was full of facts about the stars and the planets. It was just the right size and we came out just a few minutes before our bus arrived to take us back into town.

In the afternoon we went back to the hostel to do some more booking and we were hoping that we wouldn't have to listen to too much drivel but unfortunately it wasn't our day because just as we were on the phone to a help desk the comedian was well and truly back and he made not one, not two, but three annoying announcements in a row. Sonya even tried standing on the top bunk (yep the hostel isn't called Bunk for nothing) with a pillow above her head to try and cover off the speaker but even on her tip toes she still couldn't reach! It was so embarrassing but luckily the guy on the phone was fine about it :-(

Day 3 - Story Bridge Climb

On our last day in Brisbane we spent the morning doing the Story Bridge Climb. The Story Bridge might not be as impressive or well known as the Sydney harbour bridge but we climbed that on our last visit to Australia. We both enjoyed the experience so much we wanted to do something similar again but obviously didn't want to climb the harbour bridge twice so were happy to find out a similar experience was possible in Brisbane. Luckily we woke up to bright blue skies and after sampling some free breakfast we made our way over to the bridge. We arrived early and filled out the customary form to sign our lives away (just what we wanted to think about before climbing a bridge). When the whole group had arrived we headed over to another room where we met our guide for the morning. After introducing herself she made her way around the group and asked us to perform a breath test checking for alcohol! It was 9.40am but rules are rules and thankfully we all passed! After this we made our way upstairs to change into the flattering boiler suit she gave us before putting on all the extras which included a harness, a cap and headphones. It was a short walk from this room to the bridge entrance and we made our way up the spiral staircase excited to see the views.

We made our way up and up and up stopping at certain points so that our guide could point out some interesting sights and buildings to us. At one point she warned us that we had reached the steepest part of the climb and as we looked up the steps we could see why as it was a pretty long set of steps, but as we made our way up the views more than made up for it. The only thing that was disconcerting was the see through metal stairs that made Sonya's stomach do little flips. You could see all the way to the ground the entire time and it wouldn't be for everyone but we thoroughly enjoyed it. When we reached the top the guide told us about the history of the bridge stating it was the first bridge to be designed and built by Australians using materials sourced solely from Australia. At the time it was deemed to be a triumph of engineering. The main architect also designed the Sydney Harbour Bridge and was convinced to come out of retirement to help with the Story Bridge but as he was a local boy we don't think he would have minded too much.

There are 1.2 million rivets holding this mighty bridge together and when they added on the connecting middle sections of the bridge a group of men would stand on the main section of the bridge heating up the rivets to molten point before throwing them to a young boy of about 16. He was known as the rivet boy and it was his job to catch the hot rivets in a bucket of water before handing them over to the main rivet man who would quickly hammer them into the bridge! 1.5 million rivets were made in total so we think it's safe to say that quite a few ended up in the river or in the builders pockets as a momentum. Apparently all the men were given free beer for everyday they worked on the bridge, as an incentive and it took five years to build so that's a lot of beer!

We really enjoyed this tour and found it both entertaining and insightful.

Next stop Cairns and the almighty Great Barrier Reef.

Hostel Review

We stayed at Bunk in a double private with shared bathroom. Our room was tiny, just wide enough for a bunk bed and enough room to squeeze down the side. Strangely the room was taller than it was wide or long, we could just about touch the ceiling at arms length when standing on the top bunk! Although we had a shared bathroom it was only shared by one other double private and had key card entry to prevent others from using it which was a nice touch. The hostel caters for the young and hip traveller with lots of alcohol fuelled evening activities, great for people coming off the uni high but not so good for the average traveller looking for some sleep. The staff feel they need to be cool at all times, some people can be cool naturally others just look like idiots trying. We used the hostel as a base to sightsee and book onward travel and was okay for what we needed but unless you want to party all night you are probably best to look elsewhere.


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