Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Australia road trip day 12 - Coffs Harbour, Brisbane and the Big Surprise

20 November 2013

The beds were very comfortable, and I woke up late, feeling very refreshed.

Also, waking up to this heart-warming sight made my morning. 

It had been too dark when we had checked in, so it was only in the morning that we saw this lovely sight from our balcony.

Well, we also saw some not-so-lovely sights such as this chameleon, which freaked me out, but fascinated Xena.

A bush turkey wandering around

The resort had a very nice pool, so Xena and I decided to go for a dip.

Mommy and baby by the pool

We had an absolute blast in the pool, while Viv clicked pictures.

She especially enjoyed this tiny-fountain thingie. 

More splashing!

Finally, we got out of the pool, bathed and got dressed. We had to check out by noon. 

Xena and I pose at the balcony. 

After checking out, we decided to pop by the nearby beach before driving off. While driving out, we got the nice daytime view of the resort. 

Pacific Bay resort

The beach turned out to be literally two minutes away. We parked and got out, greeted by a nice green and woody area with tall trees and exotic-looking birds.

Xena immediately wanted to go say 'hi' to the birds. 

Xena approaches the birds confidently.

And off they fly!

"Where did the birds go?" She asks us. 

And then runs right back to Mommy. 

The entrance to the beach was rather narrow... 

...but it expanded out nicely after a short walk.


Xena and I pose in front of the waves.

Xena wants to get down and go near the waves.

Look at her, excitedly running towards them.

The very next moment, as she saw the waves approaching, she said, "Mommy, let's run away! The waves are coming!"

Posing with grandpa

Exploring the beach with her Poppy and Thatsie

Posing with Poppy

After spending some time at the beach, we got back to the car and headed for the Sealy lookout, which I had found on tripadvisor.com and added to our itinerary. The Sealy lookout and the Forest Sky Pier are part of the Bruxner Park Flora Reserve in the Orara East State Forest. The Sealy lookout is open to vehicles during the day, and there is no entry fee. The Forest Sky Pier offers a magnificent view of the mountains as well as the coastline. 

It was a short drive through banana plantations. The last few minutes of our drive there were on a narrow, winding, uphill road, and Viv had to drive really slowly and carefully. 

This poster had a lot of information on the Orara East State Forest and the kind of flora and fauna found there. 

There were pictures of animals and birds that were found in the area. Unfortunately, we didn't do any of the treks so we didn't see them. 

Sealy lookout is at an elevation of about 310 metres. The Forest Sky Pier stands 15 metres above the forest floor and has a 21-metre long, suspended walkway.

A delighted me atop the Forest sky pier

View from the top

Xena and me at the sky pier

I took this picture of Appa taking a picture of Xena and me.

The three generations pose again!

It was getting quite windy and chilly, so we got back into a car and set off for Brisbane. 

We drove through the Pacific highway and saw beautiful sights on the way. 

Random bridge over the Pacific highway

It was a looooong drive and I'm always very freaked out at the thought of the driver of a road trip falling asleep out of fatigue. Viv and Appa are quiet by nature, so it was really up to Xena and me to keep the atmosphere in the car lively. We did our best. Soon, we ran out of topics and I remember actually asking Appa if he and Amma still watched the TV serial Balika Vadhu and he said he did. Viv asked what the story of Balika Vadhu was, and so Appa gave a detailed account. I was so amused at how interested Viv seemed in the details. It was also the longest duration for which I had heard Appa talk. He talked for at least half an hour and by the end, we knew the entire story. 

We drove on... and on... and on. Xena kept an eye on Viv. Every time he removed a hand from the steering wheel, she'd chide, "Two hands, Poppy!"

My attempt at an artistic shot at a petrol station

Finally, we reached Brisbane around 6 pm. We had used airbnb.com again for accommodation, but this place was a very simple one. While the last one had really felt like a hotel, this felt more like a hostel. We had a room with two beds to ourselves, of course, but the house was teeming with guests. In fact, we figured that the owner's sole source of income was the house so every room had been let out. There were people coming in and going out all the time, but everyone was very friendly, especially with Xena. Our host was very helpful and spent a good half an hour going through the maps and advising us on places to see. The focus of the Brisbane part of our trip was mainly the Ashes cricket tournament, so we were planning to sight-see only on one of the break days. 

Our hosts home was in a very central location and everything was a walk away. We decided to check out the neighbourhood and find a dinner place. We finally settled on an Indian restaurant called Sitar. 

Xena chomped on the papads. We were thrilled. Xena chomping on anything was a rarity. 

This is the face she made when I asked her to smile for the camera!

Viv drinks some XXXX beer, whatever that means!

We placed our order and geared up. Today was the big unveiling of the surprise. All this while, Appa had thought that we had taken him on a normal vacation. He had no clue that he was the star of the trip; that the whole thing had been planned around him; to let him watch a live tournament in the stadium. And not just any tournament, but the Ashes, revered by all cricket lovers. 

We started off by asking him if he had enjoyed the trip so far. He simply nodded as expected, so we probed further. We asked him what the highlight of the trip was for him. "Everything." He said. So we jogged his memory with specifics - the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the Penguin Parade, etc. He said that the highlight had been the Melbourne Cricket Ground because he had never been inside a cricket stadium, not even in India. This was the perfect moment to reveal the surprise. 

"Would you like to upgrade the highlight?" Viv asked cheekily. 

Appa didn't know what he was talking about, and looked mildly surprised. Then we told him everything - how we'd wanted to take him to watch the Ashes, how we'd looked at the dates of all the matches so see which city would work out the best, how we'd taken everyone in the family in confidence when planning this, how we'd taken great care not to mention anything about it in his presence, how we'd even emailed our airbnb hosts not to say a word about it. 

And then we sat back to see his reaction. As I'd mentioned before, Appa is a man of few words and fewer expressions. But there it was, a slight smile, which in Appa terms is a big "WOW, I'm really surprised!" exclamation. 

Appa smiles! The surprise is a success!

Xena gives her Poppy what she calls an 'ekimo kiss'. 

A restful end to a happening day!

Next up - Ashes match and Teneriffe park



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