Well, it is now well into January and my promise to myself to write a little about Australia each day has been lost to the wind, so here are a few notes, – post-holiday- of the memorable time we had.
A most enjoyable family Christmas and New Year, came and went. My cousin’s daughter flew off to Shanghai to begin a new job there and M and I drove to Budrum and Maroochydore to farewell the rest of the family. The Sunshine Coast, as opposed to the Gold Coast, is further North. The atmosphere seems quieter, less brassy and commercialised than Surfers Paradise. The sea is just as sparkly and blue and the sands are the same pristine white, but there are fewer high-rises and the cafes and bars are host to a slightly older crowd, more families with babies and retired folk, squeezing out a bit more warmth in their lives before it is too late.
The vegetation is even more lush than further south and the countryside is heavy with languid palms, native eucalypts, sculptured ficus and old camphor laurel trees (the ones that explode in bush fires because of their oil content). Budrum is on a plateau and benefits from its added height, as cool breezes float up from the sea, making life a little more bearable when the sun is at its hottest.
Crows screech violently with old-men’s hacking voices each morning from around dawn at four o’clock. Occasionally the liquid chimes of a butcher bird interrupt them, putting them to shame, then the purring chirp of the doves, slightly harsher than their English counterparts but just as insistent, come floating through the air. Birds are full- time in Budrum and in the past I have stayed on the other side of the hill, where sulphur-crested cockatoos, rosellas, galahs, butcher birds and a myriad of others would come and feed on the veranda each evening, joining us for drinks.
We drove up into the Blackall Ranges, where we had wonderful views of the surrounding countryside and the Glass House Mountains (named by Captain Cook in 1770 because of their resemblance to the glass-making furnaces in his home town of Whitby in Yorkshire) We drove then, to the other side of the range and looked East, back over the plains to the Pacific ocean in the distance. It was surprisingly cold, notwithstanding the summer. Facing East, a chill wind whipping around us, made us wish for sweaters, but we just had to live with the ‘goose-bumps’, intrepid travellers that we are. Recognition of the appalling immensity of the Australian continent begins to register here, the understanding that however vast this particular aspect is, it is only the beginning of this vast sprawl of land. It is a difficult and uncomfortable concept for one raised on a small island!
We finished our trip in the charming village of Montville, home of the “world famous in Australia” Poets Cafe. This is a tourists paradise, with cute shops selling the usual over-priced tat and an ice-cream stand selling the biggest single-scoop ice-creams we had seen for years. Another great day!