The publication of this blog has been expedited (at the expense of my beauty sleep) by a concerned message from my sister demanding that I share the second half of the story…and saying that she’d “have no idea what to do in the middle of a hinterland with a flat tyre”. She has blood-obligation to be concerned for me though, so I doubt the rest of you are as eager to read it, but here goes…
First thing I did was panic silently for about 30 seconds. I then realised this was doing me no good, so decided to call Bargain Rental Cars, and explain the situation to my buddy Pat who I’d had the GPS dispute with.
He told me that everything I needed should be in the boot, I asked him if it was difficult to change a tyre, in fact I think my words were “Can I do it by myself or do I need to find someone to help?” he assessed my tone and concluded that “Yes, yes if it’s your first time I think you probably should”.
Once we’d hung up I took a moment to review the situation. I was at the top of the steep hinterland hill, no cars had passed in the 5 or so minutes since tyre-gate had occurred, but there looked to be a couple of houses at the end of long tracks off the road.
I spent another 30 seconds panicking silently before pulling myself together and trotting off down one of the tracks to a house. I was immediately greeted by a crazed border collie. It came racing towards me, barking and I thought it was the end of my adventures. However, my new found animal whisperer skills that have come with our new kitten obviously kicked in and I managed to sort of half play-wrestle the dog and make friends and not get eaten or shot by its owners.
In fact there was a distinct absence of owners, or any activity in the house when I knocked on the door a few times. Slightly deflated (!!) I wandered back to the road and had just begun contemplating whether to try and YouTube the solution when I heard an engine approaching in the distance.
I began casually waving, getting more animated as the truck neared without slowing, I also sort of stepped out into the road – a risky tactic. At the last minute it slowed but the driver didn’t put the window down, he reached over and opened the door and with a slightly dubious expression asked me what was wrong.
I felt like such a ridiculous stereotype blurting out “Ummm well you see I’ve got a flat tyre and I’ve never fixed one before”. He half-laughed, pulled over and got out and introduced himself as Al.
In order to try and redeem Al’s opinion of me I attempted to help, and kept saying “I’ll just have to watch this once and then I’ll know how to do it, it’s just I’ve never done it before you see” I don’t think it helped.
He worked quickly and quietly, but did actually give me good clear instructions throughout so I (think) I would feel confident doing one myself next time.
As he was finishing I thought I should probably make some small talk so I asked “So Al, what do you do?” His response? “I’m a mechanic” Of course he was, of course.
We said our goodbyes and I got back on the road. Super conscious of every bump and pothole as if I got another flat I would be totally stranded without a spare! I finally made it to Montville about 30 minutes behind plan and rewarded my hard work (well, my emotional turmoil) with a mint choc-chip ice-cream and took in some more cracking hinterland views.
Montville was a slightly bizarre town. It sort of reminded me of a faux-English country village, with its little cottage-esque shops, cafes offering cream teas and a waterwheel. I think I am being unkind to it, and that if I wasn’t from England, where obviously we do the ‘English Village’ expertly, then I would find it very quaint. Instead it just felt a bit false, however I greatly enjoyed my ice-cream, and being back in civilisation after tyre-gate.
After Montville the next stop was Australia Zoo, the baby of Steve Irwin and his family. It was excellent. I’m always a little dubious of zoos but it had such an emphasis on conservation and the animals were clearly so well looked after.
I felt like a bit of a nerd being the only person exploring the zoo solo, especially when I went to the koala talk and it was all small children wearing koala hats with their parents, and then me, pushing them out of the way to get a good pat of the koala – luckily they were small so pushed easily 😉
It wasn’t however as bad as my trip to the Devon Wildlife park near my parents’ house aged about 21, where I went to the penguin display, squeezed my way to the front through all the kids, and only then realised I was wearing a jumper with a massive picture of a penguin on the front. SO keen.
I spent a good few hours exploring the zoo. An observation: most of the visitors to the zoo were overweight. I won’t speculate on why this is as I really don’t know but definitely noticeable.
There was a hairy moment when entering the ‘roo-run’ and reading the sign on the gate about how visitors can help the conservation of Australia’s animals, with point 1 being: “Never buy any animal products” I read this and nodded approvingly, whilst pushing the gate open with my hand clutching my purse purchased in NYC which looks suspiciously crocodile skin like :O I can’t work out from the website whether it is or not, but for the sake of Steve’s legacy, let’s say that it’s not….
After exhausting the zoo, and the zoo exhausting me, I hopped back in the car and drove the final hour to Brisbane. I had a few issues trying to find the entrance to the car-park for my AirBnB flat got stuck in the one-way system and ended up pulling into a multi-story carpark to work out where I was going. This was probably the most expensive place in Brisbane I could have pulled over, costing me $8 for 8 minutes!
Finally I made it into the flat, dropped off my stuff, got clean and then headed for a stroll down to the river. I was staying in the Fortitude Valley area of the city which I’d heard was ‘the place to be’, so typical me style I immediately set off to walk half-an-hour away from it!
The purpose of my walk to find the ‘South Bank’ and the ‘Wheel of Brisbane’. Now, as lovely as it was, I obviously cannot help comparing it to London. Especially since the bridges are my favourite place to be in London. I instantly missed it and memories of jogging along the river and drinks at the Udderbelly and South Bank Centre came flooding back. Brisbane was always going to have a hard time living up to it!
The South Bank seemed strangely deserted. I went on the wheel, which offered some excellent views of the city lights, although the light in my carriage was broken so I couldn’t turn it off, meaning I looked like a crazy lady putting my scarf over my head to block the light so I could see out properly!
After this I thought I’d have a drink by the river but nowhere seemed to be open so I walked back up to Fortitude Valley and went for a delicious sushi dinner at one of these places where you order on an iPad. Always dangerous and I giggled to myself remembering the time that Dad and I went to Inamo in London and without noticing (so he says!) he was leaning his elbow on the ‘order rice’ button, thank goodness we realised just in the nick of time before 8 portions arrived.
It was a tasty dinner, other than the lump of wasabi paste I accidentally ate without realising, tried to style it out, tried to diffuse by sipping beer, which resulted in Wasabi bubbles everywhere in my respiratory system, leading to a coughing fit and definitely not styling it out!
By the time I was finished eating I was absolutely shattered, it had been a big old day, so it was back to the flat for a snooze before Thursday’s adventures.
I wanted to give Brisbane another shot before leaving, so I went for an early morning jog down to the river, along the newly built walkway that floats over the water, and up into the New Farm area of town. It was a stunning morning, crisp with a bright blue sky, and I definitely warmed to the city more.
I had a superb brunch at Pablo (a restaurant, not a random man’s flat) and then strolled down to the New Farm park and to see the Powerhouse building. After that I jogged home and got my stuff together for my final day of adventures in Queensland.
I had to get to Gold Coast by the afternoon where I was staying at Toots’ mum’s house, but had the day ahead of me. I was already lusting to be back in the countyside so found the smallest roads I could on the map to get me down to Gold Coast. You’d think I would have learnt after tyre gate.
I wanted to pick a stopping point en route, and spotted ‘Tamborine National Park’ when scanning the map. How fun does that sound? I couldn’t resist.
First I drove to Tamborine town, which was not even a town, just a few houses along a road, so I turned around and headed to the mountain. I found a walking trail that went to ‘Curtis Waterfall’ so set off on that and had a lovely walk through the forest, finding a quiet pool and (unsurprisingly) a waterfall at the end 🙂
I made it to Gold Coast about 3pm and had a late lunch with Ginny (Toots’ mum), Luis (brother) and Berto (family friend) before Ginny and Luis had to head out to the restaurant that they own there.
I took the opportunity to get my bike packed up for the flight back to Sydney the next day so headed out to the front drive with the bike box and various tools. Suddenly I became aware of the feeling that someone was watching me and looked up to see a little boy who must have only been about 4 years old at the end of the drive.
He wandered up to me…”Whatcho doing?” I explained that I was packing my bike up. “Why?” I explained that I had to take it on the plane the next day, and that they say you have to pack it like this. “Why are the wheels in the box?” I explained that you have to take them off so that it fits, and also that you have to let the air out of the tyres so that they don’t explode under the pressure.
He seemed very excited by this mention of explosion and ran to get his big brother who was playing with a rugby ball out on the road: “Look, look! She’s packing her bike so she can take it on the plane, and she has to take her wheels off and let the air out so they don’t EXPLODE”
Brother: “Ooooo” (rushing off next door): “Grandpa, Grandpa [Toots’ Mum’s neighbour] look this lady is packing her bike and the tyres have to be flat so they don’t EXPLODE!!!!” Grandpa: “Oh leave the poor girl alone”
But they didn’t, and I quite enjoyed it, I let them help me loosen my handlebars, and take my saddle out. They also asked of my tri-gear on the drive “Is ALL that stuff yours?”. I was about to start ranting about the ridiculous cost of excess baggage charges but decided this might be slightly lost on them.
They somehow knew that cleated shoes clipped into pedals and wanted a demonstration. Take note, never try to do this when your pedals are not on the bike, it is a nightmare to separate them again!
Suddenly I knew what it felt like to be Al imparting my technical wisdom. It was all very circle of life.
Toots arrived late that evening and we all headed to their bar for a drink before returning home for hot-dogs and playing cards to see in Ginny’s birthday at midnight!
We had Arepas for birthday breakfast on Friday. My life is significantly better since Toots introduced these to me. They are a traditional Venezuelan cornflour dish, sort of comparable to a pancake, or an English muffin and can be eaten with cheese, guac, slow-cooked meat, peanut-butter (well, I eat them with it and they all think it’s weird!)
After breakfast Ginny and Luis headed off for a birthday spa session and I made my way to the airport. I got back to Sydney about 2pm and was kindly collected by Matt from triathlon club. He only had about 30 seconds left on the free parking when I emerged so I had to do a sprint with the bike box (not. easy!) and we did a get-away style zoom out of the carpark. At least that’s how I imagine it looked.
We collected Loren and we were on the road again, this time heading 300km or so north of Sydney to Forster (apparently pronounced Foster, NOT FoRster) for the annual New South Wales triathlon club champs, where all the tri clubs compete against each other to be crowned champions. The points system is based on the highest placing person that a club has in each age group, and points for volunteers helping run the event.
The drive from Sydney to Forster was long, with Friday evening traffic, however I’d like to think we made it as enjoyable as possible for Matt by introducing him to the Sound of Music soundtrack, and many other wonderful singalong tracks.
There was slight contention in the car when he tricked me about the distance to the next bathroom break. I helpfully mentioned just as we were leaving Sydney that I might potentially need the bathroom, in a little while. We then hit traffic for about an hour and when I raised it again Matt reassured me that we’d be stopping at the ‘twin servos’ that were ‘half an hour’ he then added under his breath ‘from Hornsby’. About 2 hours later we finally pulled into the services, his upholstery had a lucky escape. It didn’t help that it was actually a rather fun journey and my ability to laugh was somewhat limited!
By the time we’d got settled into our apartment at Forster it was about 9pm so I just crashed out for the night.
Race day!! (Haha deja vu to blog part 1?)
Sadly the weather was nowhere near as glorious as in Byron, however this didn’t stop it being a completely awesome day. The race was a sort of 2/3 Olympic distance one, consisting of 1km swim, 30km bike and 8km run.
It was so great having so many people out on the course from the tri club, and so many supporters along the way. I had a good race, although the cycle was not my cup of tea at all with lots of up-and-downs and corners.
But, as everyone had told me in advance, club champs isn’t really about the race at all but more about the party afterwards! 5 minutes after finishing I had a cider in hand and headed back out onto the course to cheer those who had started in later waves.
I mentioned this in my ‘Settling in Sydney’ post, but Coogee tri club has really been a massive part of making me feel at home here, it is genuinely the nicest bunch of people going, and so unlike some of the cliquey sports clubs I’ve previously been a part of. It was fantastic to have so many of us there together.
Once everyone was finished there were photos, drinks and jelly snakes before heading back to the apartment to attempt to dry ourselves and our sodden clothes and shoes. The price that Loren and I paid for sticking around until the end of the post-race drinks was cold showers on our return. Invigorating.
We then had a club BBQ downstairs in the apartment block (we had about 5 apartments with Coogee folk in) before heading to the RSL for the presentation evening, and the parddddy.
Apparently it is tradition that we arrive late, and we didn’t disappoint, however they were also late running the awards, which meant that everyone was sufficiently merry by the time it was announced that we had WON the club championships for our division!!!!!! Much merriment ensued – although I suspect it would have regardless of the result.
An excellent night had by all, with some wonderful dancing by the Payne brothers and Di. Matt’s signature dance move ‘the slug’ came out to play, which he’d sustained a pre-race injury by attempting on the carpet in the flat. The vinyl dance floor was luckily more forgiving, as were our fellow revellers.
Our flat had been nominated as the location for the ‘after party’ so we eventually filtered back there to consume the remnants of the BBQ and wrap up the evening.
We managed to sort ourselves out in advance of the 10am check-out and were greeted by a glorious day, which would have in fact been perfect for racing in, but never mind, the rain gave the race an ‘edge’, or something like that!
We headed down to the beach cafe for a breakfast, then turned our breakfasts upside-down indulging in a few jump-shots and some beach gymnastics and then it was time to head back to Sydney 😦
I had proper Sunday blues heading back at the end of an incredible week, but then I got home, was greeted by a very happy little Duke, hopped into bed early and wrote yesterday’s blog and realised just how lucky I am at the moment.
Here’s to lots more adventures!