As we drive into Queensland our phones buzzed with excitement as the timezone suddenly changed. We got an hour back, what should we do with that special time? Well we drove to Brisbane. Now there’s no point in hanging around or staying very long in Brisbane I’ve been told by numerous people. You’ll tell by the end of this article and probably Kelly’s too that we disagree and loved old Brizzy – as I came to call it in my head (I dunno why, maybe it’s called that by locals, maybe not or maybe I’m picking up the Aussie shortening disease).
As we dumped the van it’s warm, like somehow warmer than NSW just was an hour ago. I’m getting my now-standard forehead sweat that turns my hair into a slick-backed look that I just can’t pull off. Not a good look to meet our hosts for the next few days. Sepeedah being the super friendly girl that she is, invited Kelly and I to stay in their new swish pad in Tenerife (not Spain, Brizzy).
An Aussie, she’d worked with Kelly in London until her husband Jesse, got want can only be described as the dream gig back home. He’s an actor I discover, and has just finished filming as the lead in alien invasion flick Pacific Theater. He’s got some stories to tell but we’ll come back to that.
Sep, Jesse and us jump on the ferry and travel down to the Southbank. Jesse asks whether I’d swim across it for $1m, it’s only about 500m wide so I declare I’d probably do it for less. Shocked Jesse asks if I know what’s in there. I don’t, and withdraw my claim as deep in the bottom of the river lie bull sharks. Aggressive deadly bull sharks, and not just one or two; according to an expert, if you imagine kicking over an ants nets this will help you visualise how many bull sharks are scurrying at the bottom of the river.
Don’t. Fall. In.
Kelly and I read in the news the day after we left Brizzy that a British backpacker jumped in the river from the bridge, bobbed up screaming then went under and was never seen again. This is Australia.
With that in mind we sat having some beers discussing Australian animals with them. Jesse is scared of spiders and saw the biggest one in his life in… London. But still everyday deadly creatures make Australians scared of lots of things and rightly so. During filming Jesse was taken to Cairns and needed to stand by himself in a water pool for a scene involving a crashing spaceship. He needed to look scared, he didn’t need to act. The reason for this fear was that crocodiles were not just likely to appear but expected! Two spotters sat behind camera on shore looking out for the tell-tell signs of a prehistoric photo-bomber. What they would have done if they had spotted one I don’t know. Shout and hope Jesse could run faster through water than a croc could swim? If the Oscars had a most dedicated to the craft category – Jesse would be a shoe in.
The following day we rose early to drive to The Steve Irwin memorial zoo, I mean Australia Zoo. It’s a bit of a shrine to him, but carrying his infectious enthusiasm for animal conservation rather than any morbidity. It’s also easily the best zoo I’ve ever been to.
First up in the Crocatorium (a ten thousand seater stadium with a pool in the centre where the carnage takes place), was Bindi, Steve’s grown up, Daughter who is now quite famous (never heard of her) for winning dancing with the stars in America. My first feeling was of weirdness, her part of the show was very Disney Club-esque. She had a mic, but was clearly lip-syncing her songs (she has songs?), and her Dancers – the Jungle Girls (retch) – prattled along with her. By the end though I understood it, she is young and is trying to inspire a generation to look after the wildlife of this world. We just live in a world where the best way to get the message across is through the medium of bubblegum pop.
To be fair the stadium was on its feet and riled up for the big show the croc… Oh it’s Parrots. Well-trained inter-crowd flying parrots, and other birds like a massive condor. It was really massive. Exciting stuff before the crocs came out.
This is when the other Irwins emerged along with Bindi again, and after a few well rehearsed rounds of banter we were under way. With each ominous shadow a new promise of violence came. Each Irwin got a go as the crocs got bigger, smacking the floor with whatever meat that was until the crocs lurched forward and destroyed it. The cage was full with watchers there to do something if the crocs attacked, again what that was I don’t know. Finally the big ‘en came and Steve Irwin’s stand-in was despatched with a deer leg. This croc, named something lame like Bobby (I’d call them vaporiser or mother killer or something awesome), grabbed the leg then reversed into the water and death rolled 3 or 4 times until the leg was sufficiently drowned to eat.
Stunning stuff we thought now let’s go hold a koala, not crush or drown it mind, just hold it long enough to get a photo… but not get chlamydia.
Box ticked, we wandered to Africa where we saw rhinos, giraffes and zebras in the same enclosure – by this point it was way too hot to function so we found a grass sprinkler and got involved.
Without knowing it we had timed our route from there to Asia perfectly for the tiger show. The enclosure was occupied by two tigers, one with two glass eyes, and another jumping around in water like a domestic cat after a massive Da Bird toy. The toy weaved by a young handler again watched by 2 or 3 men ready to react. Don’t ask, I still hadn’t figured out how, and two days later reports of a handler being injured by one of the Tigers emerged – not doing your job fellas (unless there job was to shout and point ‘it’s killing her’). Anyway the show was amazing, and seeing how happy and good tigers are at swimming and how much they were like massive versions of our cat Buster back in London, was brilliant.
Next otters, I love otters, we all know this, they were the first Asian otters I’ve ever seen and apart from the smell of old old fish they were the coolest things ever.
Now Jesse and Sep had lived in Brisbane most of their lives but had never been to Australia Zoo. The final section of the park thrilled everyone the most, kangaroo and Koalas up close. An aside – do you know that kangaroo is the Aboriginal word for “I don’t understand you”. When the British arrived we asked the locals what those bouncy things were and not surprisingly they responded “Kangeroo”, as they didn’t speak English.
In the enclosure we got to feed some very aloof kangaroos, then saw some koalas climbing around, and I mean actually moving and climbing around. Well one anyway who disturbed another very irritated looking koala, and received a koala level death stare in return.
Back at the ranch we all retired to the pool at Sep’s place. Jesse challenged me to going the distance of the pool underwater which I masterfully failed at, so we played tennis ball catch. You catch like an English cricketer Jesse quipped at my further failures, still that’s better than the Aussies isn’t it, I retorted #bantz.
Next morning after trying my first vegemite and avocado concoction on banana bread (yum), Sep and Jesse left us for a Sydney wedding so we would house sit for a day or two, so Kelly and I made our way to the XXXX brewery for a long tour complete with cinema experience and tasting session.
Our final day in Brizzy was in the town centre. Lunch in George’s square, then we met up with Eleanor and Dominic for some drinks whilst we were all in town. Back at the pad we start booking all our hostels from Perth to Thailand as again time was catching up with us. The date had also passed so now we could apply for our Chinese Visas, so that gave us an opportunity to book an interview in the Perth office (China still wants to see people in person, and for you to leave your passports with them for 4 days making it difficult when we spend that little time in places). The issue we stumbled upon was that when we were in Perth it was Chinese New Year. Gulp, these visas could be very problematic as we needed to find somewhere in Asia to sort them. I parked those thoughts for now as we were heading to Vanuatu for a holiday from our holiday as Kelly put it.
As we leave I start thinking that I’ve got to a stage where I’m used to everywhere I go and don’t need any settling in period anymore. Probably because there’s no comfort zone like home so we’re just used to sleeping out of a bag, and that means we’re officially on an adventure!