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Brisbane - Gold Coast Hinterland - Day 1

Australia is an interesting place. Due to the sheer size of the country, it has areas having totally different climate from each other. The southern states (Victoria, New South Wales etc.) have predominantly temperate climates. The northern and western states enjoy summer and subtropical climates throughout the year.

Visiting Sydney last year had already given us the taste of Australian culture and landscapes. When the Christmas holidays approached, we thought of visiting Brisbane. We chose Brisbane because our great friend Jain Saab had recently moved to the city. I was in touch with him and shared my thought with him. He strongly urged us to visit them and he would show us around. We started planning for the visit and eagerly looked forward to it.
The Natural Bridge and the waterfall are seen from inside the cave.
Having known Jain Saab for years now, I can easily say that there are very few persons who can match his positive attitude and joyous spirit. He and his wife are one of the best hosts I have met. We were going to experience it this summer. While discussing the plans to visit them, I couldn't do much planning about the places to visit and sightseeing. So it was all up to them to plan everything.

We planned to fly to Brisbane from Auckland on Christmas Day, as we had done the last year while flying to Sydney. This became fascinating when the immigration officer in Brisbane pointed it out on our arrival that we always flew to Australia on the Christmas day. We had a candid laugh about it with him.
Entry to the Natural Bridge section of Springbrook National Park.
Having such lovely and resourceful friends makes things very easy. They called us more than a week ago and told us about the plans they had made for us. We were excited and started looking forward to it. I was reading about the climate there and wondered that it was never too cold in the city as compared to Auckland. Then I instantly remembered the fact that most Kiwis immigrate to live in Queensland due to its climate which remains warm all around the year.

We flew on the Christmas day morning and reached Brisbane on the scheduled arrival time. Jain Saab was there to pick us up. While driving to his place, we noticed that contrary to the dry and rugged image of Australia, the city was very green and humid. Some roads and locales even reminded me of Chandigarh. The flora was very similar to what we have always seen in North India. As usual, I was comparing it with places I had already seen.
Natural Bridge Circuit map.
We reached his place and took rest. The first thing he showed me at his place was a box of locally grown mangoes. I hadn’t eaten mangoes in more than a year. I was absolutely stoked to see the famous Queensland Mangoes. He also mentioned that they were readily available. I had already decided that I was going to eat mangoes to my fill this time in Brisbane. J

After chatting around and getting ready for the day ahead, we all packed our bags and got into the car. The plan was to go sightseeing and staying in a resort. Jain Saab also had their friends joining them later in the day at the resort. All sounded like a great plan.
Amidst the dense rainforest.
More than 85% of Australia's population lives within 50 km of the coast line. This is in spite of the huge size of the country. The state of Queensland has some very famous subtropical beaches and resorts. The main centres are Brisbane, Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast. These cities have their hilly regions to their respective western side which are called Hinterlands.

Today we were going to visit some interesting places in the Gold Coast Hinterland. The resort where we had planned to stay was at a remote place called Kooralbyn Valley. We started from Brisbane city and stopped at a supermarket to get some food for the journey. It was difficult finding the open supermarkets since it was a public holiday across the country.
The Cave Creek waterfall (Natural Bridge) seen from the lookout above.
We moved ahead after the shopping and reached the motorway to Gold Coast hinterland. The weather was nice as it was cool due to clouds and drizzle throughout the way. We enjoyed the landscape as it became hillier as we drove ahead. We had thought that we would see the orange and rust coloured dry landscapes on visiting Australia. On the contrary, what we were seeing was reminding me of Auckland and New Zealand in general.

After almost 2 hours of driving, we reached a place called Springbrook National Park. It had a dense forest and a scenic attraction called Natural Bridge. There was a glow worm cave nearby. The walkway to access it was inside a dense rainforest. We waited for the other friends who were driving with us and had been left behind.
A wooden bridge in the rainforest.
After assembling at the parking, we went ahead to explore that place. There was a rugged downhill walkway in the middle of the rainforest which had some beautiful viewpoints. After some 15-20 minutes of walking, we reached the waterfall which was the main attraction of the place.

It is called Natural Bridge because of the Cave Creek waterfall which has resulted in the formation of a natural rock arch. The glow worm cave was under the bridge. Since we were visiting in the middle of the day, it was bright enough not to see any glow worms as they could only be seen in the dark.
The cloudy hills are seen from Bowchow Park.
We enjoyed the views there and moved ahead after clicking the pictures. It was an amazing place given the sheer size of the bridge. The weather was also great as it had continued drizzling. It meant that the temperature was less than normal.

Slowly we moved ahead and completed the whole walk. It was an interesting experience and surprisingly we were not feeling tired in spite of the long day we have already had. We reached the car parking and decided to move ahead to the resort to take rest. One of Jain Saab’s friends were accompanying us in their car.
The creek in Bowchow Park.
While on our way back to the resort, we saw a beautiful park and decided to take a break there. It was called Bowchow Park and was very well located with green hills covered with clouds in the backdrop. We met a group of Gujarati families there playing cricket and relaxing. We had a quick chat with them and were tempted to play a short game of cricket.

Afterwards, we walked down to the creek and spent some time relaxing there. As always, clicking pictures was a part of it. We decided to move ahead on our way to the resort. After some half an hour drive, we reached an interesting place where the lake had numerous dry tree trunks in it. It looked like an apocalyptic landscape altogether. I later found this place's name to be Advancetown Lake in Advancetown.
The apocalyptic landscape of Advancetown Lake.
There was no place to stop nearby so we stopped on the side of the highway. We did go to the middle of the road on the bridge to take pictures. The constant drizzle and the cheerfully honking passing vehicles made it even more thrilling. We moved ahead afterwards and were talking about seeing Kangaroos and Koala Bear some time.

Just ahead, we quickly noticed a Koala Bear perched on the branch of a tree in the forest. We were elated that it was a good start of the trip for us. The area which we were passing was known as Scenic Rim. It was a beautiful drive and we were seeing very less fellow passengers on the roads.

There was an interesting viewpoint where we could see the Pacific Ocean on the right side in the far distance. We took an impromptu stop there and I figured out that it was the famous Gold Coast skyline seen in the distance. This was a surprising stop as no one expected to see such a place from that distance. It made that stop even more amusing.

As we crossed the hills, we reached flatter lands and the town called Beaudesert. It was the only major town near the place where we were staying. We drove continuously and reached the Ramada Resort Kooralbyn Valley. It was a 5-star resort in a small rural community of the same name.

We were guided to the booked rooms where we settled and rested for some time before going for dinner. Jain Saab had requested us to bring the famous Paradise vegetarian Biryani from Auckland. We had kept that with us on the trip to the resort. The dinner was going to be served at the resort restaurant.

Since there were not many vegetarian options available, it was not an easy experience for the most in our group. The Biryani came to rescue and we somehow managed to persuade the restaurant manager to let us warm it up and have it, to which he was reluctant earlier.

After a long day of excursion and a comedy of errors at the dinner table in the restaurant, we finally called it a day and went to sleep. Afterall we had to get ourselves prepared for the next action-packed day.

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