Land of the Queen – Brisbane to Noosa in a week

After hightailing it from the Gold Coast I ended up in the 3rd biggest city in Oz, Brisbane. And as you can see, its quite lovely.

There’s…not much really to say about Brisbane. It’s a city, it’s very pretty, very modern, very swish and stylish and efficient. There’s a decent night life, some wonderfumuseums and a nice place called Southbank, which basically part park and part fake beach along the river.

I stopped to visit, had a nice day there, saw some lovely museums, and then went on.

Yeah.

Look, Brisbane is lovely. I cannot fault it for that – but it’s just another city.

The most interesting aspects of it are its history. Prime example of which would be the still remaining remnants of colonial buildings – in particular a windmill from the time of the first prison colony:

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The windmill built during the first colonial settlement. Brisbane was founded when Sydney was overflowing with convicts.

Brisbane is a place rich in history – colonial parts are both grim and fascinating, and the expansion into modern metropolis is still something I have difficulty understanding. That Windmill was a poor design back in the day – mid 1800s – and now here it sits, a hundred and fifty years later, utterly dwarfed by glittering skyscrapers filled with technology, being gormlessly captured by a 24 year old backpacker.

So the highlight of the city are the many museums and cultural spots to be seen. There’s art galleries, science museums, tours of old buildings…basically if you don’t want to do exciting shit but want to learn something, go to Brisbane for a day.

I reckon there’s a life worth living here – the heat is starting to get quite powerful this far into Queensland, the sun hangs high and long into the sky. Much like Sydney, there’s a desire for the city to want people to be proud of it, to work for it and to protect it. It hovers over all the signage, the museums and the general vibe of the place.

Being on a river meant there were ferries everywhere, and were a useful form of transport. Free, as well, which is music to my ears.

Primarily though, Brisbane is not a place to visit for a week, but a place to aim to work and settle.

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Much like the US, Australia does not think small – their cities expand both upwards and outwards, towering over relatively small city centres.

After the flicker through Brisbane the next spot was a curious little place called Noosa. Noosa is known for being one of only two places where Everglades exist. Everglades are basically sources of continuous fresh water – a natural, tropical wetland.

Noosa is also known for some more East Coast beaches, tropical plants and unbelievable humidity.

Seriously its like getting stepped on the chest if its really bad.

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Shot of Sunshine beach and the homes overlooking it – Noosa.

It wasn’t that long ago Noosa was searching desperately for settlers. Now it’s filled with retirees and property owners. Honestly the economy here is river and tourism based (much like some other places on the East Coast). This leaves a contrast to the town centre and the backpackers that frequent it.

Noosa has two main attractions – the everglades themselves and a vast national park preserving the wildlife, plant life and natural feel of the place. So in the day, Noosa is a place to wander around and find interesting things like a coastal walk, to a place called Hell’s gate:

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What I love about spots like this is the sense of scale it gives. Noosa is a place with about 60,000 people (rounding up) and has been settled quite extensively, yet barely makes a dent on the coastal view of the place. The flora and fauna of Queensland sits at its border, not held back, just accommodating the arrivals. There’s a sense, more so here than anywhere else I’ve been so far, that man’s just stuck a flag down, and nature has barely registered it.

Well now it does. Colonial man did blunder a bit and log the shit out of the area initially.

Nothing else makes this more so than the realisation every home here has to have an arse load of aircon. That humidity is bad now, at the tail end of winter. I would not want to feel the midday sun inland from the coast in this place.

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The everglades are the highlight of the place though. Starting out at the river (a vast place with floating homes and tourist boats in equal measure), heading north through shallow lakes and past private islands (one of which is owned by Richard Branson), you’ll eventually reach the everglades.

It doesn’t take long along the river to feel like civilisation has completely disappeared – mostly because it has. The river feeds upwards, into vast open waters an inch deep and covered with birds, vegetation and kayaks.

Yes, kayaks. It’s the main mode of transportation around the rivers and everglades themselves besides tour boats. And up here, there is a serene sense of beauty and peace.

The everglades are calm and inviting; only the sound of birds and insects really reverberate between the trees and rivers. It’s a place to lose yourself in, think in the sun and gently paddle up a stream to. I lost a day to doing just that.

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That same day was lead by a tour guide who spoke of the need for nature and balance to have a part in our lives. One point he made was pretty on the money – the nature of progress. Modern Noosa homes are loaded with refrigeration and air conditioning. Old settlements simply built 45 degree slits in their windows and put a hole in the ceiling to create natural ventilation.

What’s curious about that observation is key to understanding what Noosa represents and maybe what Australia represents. The homes, the money that’s here now, is modern and carefree. It plants its roots into old territory, and bulldozes away the problems. In the past that meant the natives and the forests – part of the river is almost barren in terms of greenery, lumbered away during the settling days.

And you’ll see and feel this ten miles up the river, where it feels like no one has ever made a home, or there isn’t a pub and some beers someway down stream. That border between civilisation and wilderness is so thin out here, and Noosa is the first time I properly noticed that transition – or the lack of it.

I was left with a thought though when chatting to the tour guide: what future can there be for anyone young growing up here? Work in the tourist trade for retirees and backpackers? Or run off, two hours away, to the big city, which then leaves the area deprived of a next generation to tend and grow the place?

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Yes these questions pop into my head while travelling – hence my lack of invitations to parties.

But nonetheless its something I couldn’t help think about. The parallels to the Old Country were quite striking – places where the young have few options to make it, and a place seems somewhat bereft of purpose in the long run.

Would I keep stumbling on these places as I headed north? Places that served fancy coffee, eggs benedict and a smile to a passing traveller, hoping the stream continues?

Anyway! Noosa – lovely spot, lovely place, lovely views, but I wouldn’t choose to live here. If I did live here, the future was up the road – Brisbane, where the streets and the skyscrapers offer more opportunity than rivers and tourists.

Xander signing off again. Next up will be a visit to Rainbow beach, followed by Fraser Island.

Adios!

So I had this written for a while. Lots of travelling plus awful ‘net has prevented a lot of uploading, which I’ll be steadily catching up now I’m somewhere stable – Port Douglas.

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