It was only a a few weeks ago that the floods in Queensland meant that the port of Brisbane was closed to all but emergency traffic, but we arrived without a problem on Tuesday 15th. As with Sydney, the Australian authorities are strict with people bringing any food or plant matter ashore, so every passenger had their hand baggage searched when we disembarked. In Brisbane we'd berthed in a basic container port, so we had to take shuttle buses into Brisbane, about 40 minutes away.
Brisbane is not a big place and the streets are all laid out in a grid pattern, not at all like Milton Keynes. All the North-South streets are female names, all the East-West ones are male, mostly kings and queens. It makes navigating the city quite easy, and together with Trevor and Jean, we decided to try to hire some bikes and cycle the path around the city centre and along the river. From the tourist information on the main shopping street we'd been told of a place to rent them just inside the gates of the botanical gardens, so we headed down there. While Sydney was a bit wet and cloudy, the weather in Brisbane was very warm and sunny so we walked slowly and took in the sights. The botanical gardens were lovely but there was no sign of anyone offering bikes for hire. A local volunteer guide stopped to chat to us, and we discovered that the bike hire didn't run on a Tuesday. Of course. He advised us to come back tomorrow, but that was a little impractical. So instead I broke out my shorts and we decided to walk instead.
Some of the park was closed off to the public still as the clean up from the floods continued, but we were very impressed by the speed at which things were getting back to normal, especially considering the extent of the damage. The gardens ran down to the river itself, so a large proportion of the site had been under water only weeks earlier.
It was a nice stroll through the trees, down to the riverside and then along a boardwalk through the only "innercity" mangrove swamps in Australia. We emerged close to a foot bridge which took us across the river and onto the south bank. This is where a lot of the damage to businesses was done, and there was a real major cleanup operation underway. Signs and posters announced that the south bank was open for business but the city beach (a huge man made area of pools and parks along the river) had been washed away, and reconstruction was underway. It looked like it was, and will again be, a really attractive area. We ate in a scruffy looking fish and chips cafe which actually served the biggest and tastiest fish burgers any of us had tried, we could easily have eaten one between two but it would have been rude to leave any! We sat outside on benches covered in newspaper because it had been raining a few minutes earlier, and watched the big Ibis birds search for scraps left behind by fellow dinners.
I know I said earlier that it was hot and sunny but as with quite a few places recently, that doesn't preclude the odd, sudden downpour. This one was no different, and had caught us just as we found some shelter. You don't get much warning any more, just a few big drops, then it really starts, they know how to do rain here!
Continuing our walk along the south bank of the river we found the Brisbane version of the London Eye. It wasn't as big, but there was no queue and pretty much all the carriages were empty. We could have had one each. It was a pleasant enough ride with good views over the city had it not been for the rain which started again just before we boarded and continued for another 20 minutes after we got to off. Luckily there was more shelter which we took advantage of before heading back across the river and back to the central shopping area.
We split from Trevor and Jean and managed to look around a few real shops, me on the lookout for a lightweight rain jacket for less than $100 and Katie on the perpetual hunt for postcards! We stopped at Starbucks in the hope of leaching some free Wifi but drew a blank there. The hunt for a reliable, cheap connection continues, it doesn't even have to be fast, I'm willing to take anything!
Back in the port and back on board, we were readying ourselves for sail away when the captain announced that the ship was also ready to go. It was only a couple of minutes later that he came back on to say that 2 last people had arrived and we had to "open the door" and drop the gangway again to let them on. It was obvious that he had already made the decision to leave without them, they were lucky to have made it.
Overall, we liked Brisbane. Aside from the weather, the city felt like it had a real heart, and the city beach area is quite unique, it really helps to give the place a feeling of outdoor living which is very attractive.