Macleay Island

Macleay Island
Macleay Island, Australia

Macleay Island, Australia

If you’re going to Brisbane, pick up a Go card. $10 deposit; refundable if you can find the times to sort that out, but if not it is still likely to be worth it. It lets you travel on the buses, trains and ferries, for a 30% discount. Or more – get this, if you make 9 different journeys in a week (more than an hour in between), any others are free. That’s good if you’re a 5 day commuter – pay for 9, the last is free as is the whole weekend. If you’re travelling, it’s superb; I could have travelled all the way out to Cleveland on the train, bus to Redland bay, then ferry out and back to the islands, all for free.

Tall tree with twisting branches
Macleay Tree.

I say “could have” because I didn’t realise the ferry was part of the deal and bought a ticket for the outgoing trip. Never mind, consider it an investment, and it was still a bargain. As I arrived at Cleveland, I realised I didn’t know where to go, though there was a sign to a free ferry shuttle. I wandered round and decided that Redland Bay sounded familiar and I might as well get on that bus. I was reassured by the girl ahead getting advice and being shown onto the same bus with her backpack – well, she must be headed to the islands, then.

I was right! A longish bus ride and we were at the ferry port. Not the one I’d researched, a private company that runs the car ferry; instead the council runs a passenger ferry, essentially a bus service.

It was a hot day, and though there were signs to the ‘heritage route’, running clockwise round the edge of the island, I wasn’t inspired. I stopped for provisions and figured I could find a beach, but the route took me inland first. I found a bay to eat at eventually, and by then had seen the houses, wetlands and quieter pace of island life and was sated. It is thriving – 2000 inhabitants, and growing, though there were some less-loved houses for sale, with roadworks and construction in places. If I’d taken a bike I could have explored more, but those at the house were locked up and I’d missed Ricky so hadn’t asked him for the code.

Little bay, beached boats.
Little bay, beached boats.

I’d walked a fair way, at least, so headed back to the city, just using the bus this time. Nearer the centre I suddenly realised we were in a tunnel just for buses, and then onto a road that was the same. Several miles of busway, in fact, with a couple of tunnels – very cool. It’s quite new, but must make a real difference to transport, as otherwise the serpentine river makes getting from one spot to another more than a bit fiddly. Brisbane has grown so much in the last 30 or so years that traffic has become a problem in the centre, though the motorway comes right up close so I suspect it’s a case of temporary queues rather than total gridlock.

Brian, from the cricket, had recommended the Breakfast Creek hotel as the oldest pub in the city. It’s a way out of the centre (just in front of Allan Border field. Or behind it if you’re looking from the other side. There was a cricketer of that name, but I reckon the field marks the edge of Allan’s territory from days of yore), but I decided to walk from the wrong side of the river, thereby seeing more of the city, including Chinatown. Strangely, I was more motivated by this walk than I had been on the island.

I put it down to the sense of purpose rather than the promise of beer. Check out the bars on their website. It is a sprawl of bars that I found bewildering. The public bar is harshly lit and felt a bit like a bookmakers, with TV coverage all round, betting odds on screens and betting slips on the tables. That was where I was most at home, though, as outside was a confusing morass of people, some in private functions and the others in groups that I didn’t feel a solo traveller could wander up to. The private bar is the most ‘English’, being wooden and more clubbable, but there was more space in the public bar. The XXXX bitter was okay, but nothing special.

Walking to the riverboat was a pleasure. With the day hot, the evening was beautiful, mid 20s, stats twinkling in the sky. They don’t seem to overdo the street lights, so some streets are quite dark, but that means less light pollution. As I got to the terminal, a boat came past with Last Christmas clearly audible for kilometres around. The first of many culture shock-  it’s Christmas, and it’s warm? – moments.

The day before had been my day off travel, so I’d seen the early showing of About Time at cheapy cinema. Another weepy statement of the bleedin obvious by Richard Curtis (“maybe try to enjoy every day, eh?”), though that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it. There was too much London porn (ooh, that’s such and such street! As if seeing it on screen validates the location), which normally irritates but was pleasantly nostalgic. I felt homesick for the whole period from the film ending to getting out into the sun. I took the boat into town, had a smoothie in the sun and ran a 3x3k session with Intraining in the evening. Pretty good.

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