Friday, April 16, 2010

Noosa Heads, Queensland, Australia

This week finds us north of Brisbane, in another one of those coastal towns located all along the East Coast of Australia. This one is called Noosa Heads and it has more of those great Aussie Beaches to explore. Driving up the coast from Byron Bay we passed through the heart of what is called the Gold Coast; a large, American-style community with the requisite tacky main drag, the large high-rise apartment buildings right on the beach, and the core downtown area devoted to the automobile and clogged with upscale franchise stores. So desperate is the place to be another slice of Americana that the communities have even named themselves after the iconic image they yearn to be; Palm Beach, Miami Beach, and even Surfer's Paradise. With a large commercial airport right near the beach, the Gold Coast caters to the massive holiday crowds from nearby Brisbane and elsewhere in Australia. And it also offers theme parks that cater to the young families – Water Slides, Amusement Rides, and even an MGM park.

Fortunately, Noosa Heads is located further north; on the Sunshine Coast. It is not so in-your-face tacky as the Gold Coast, but it does have a touch of Rodeo Drive chic. Once again the town economy relies on the influx of tourists and vacationers, and is a collection of restaurants, surf shops, convenience stores and cafes. The biggest single difference is that for the most part the Backpacker Crowd has been left hanging out on the Main Beach down south at Byron Bay. As a result, the accommodations, restaurants and shops are decidedly upscale, with prices to match.

We have noted that the Aussies appear to be big on markets, so we had to check out one at a nearby town called Eumundi. It contained the usual farmers produce, hand-craft stores (or at least stores hawking what is supposedly hand-made – usually in China!), and the necessary food court to dole out the ice cream, coffee, pies and sweets. But down here in Oz the local markets also feature a sprinkling of the mystical - tarot and palm readers, massage kiosks, aroma therapy clinics, crystal tuning, aura re-alignment, foot tickling, feather dusting, wand recharging – you get the idea. The market connects with the town's main street; a charming collection of old buildings that harken back about 100 years. The photo taken on the main street shows how the first petrol (gasoline) stations worked; you just pulled up curbside at the General Store, grabbed a pump and filled up your lorry – and they are doing exactly the same thing today!

Elsewhere, the enterprizing Aussies even have a different spin on the factory outlet mall; an entertainment / outlet park. Someone assembled a parcel of land in the country and convinced a bunch of local outfits to set up shop there. Thus you have a combined factory, warehouse, commercial outlet and tourist trap all rolled into one! So instead of having to trail all over the countryside you just drop by the entertainment / industrial park and let the fun begin. And there is a world of fun to be had since the centre contains a coffee producing plant, a Macadamia Nut Factory, a Ginger Factory and a Chocolate Factory. You can ride a Miniature Railroad to your destination, take a Bee Tour (?), see how ginger is made, sample some of the amusement rides, and shop the tourist shops for indulgences normally forgone in everyday life. Me, I settled into a chair and enjoyed a coffee with a Ginger Scone, served with fresh whipping cream and ginger marmalade.

On the other hand there is still the beauty of the local beaches and scenery to be had for free. And as usual there is an abundance of good local food available; excellent steaks, seafood and produce. However, the national dish appears to be french fries; chips as they call them. They come with almost everything, and even when you don't order them they appear; its understood that chips are a must. They do have a dish served with melted cheese but when we explain the addition of gravy to make poutine, a unique Quebec contribution to the culinary arts, they are mystified. To some, this alone justifies a trip to Canada! Pictured here is a $10 order of chips being devoured by 5 young ladies; the white container at the side contain Feta cheese for dipping.

We are staying in the penthouse of a three-story apartment block and have a complete rooftop plaza for our own use. It has lounging and sitting chairs, a BBQ, a built-in sink and a Hot Tub. So we can sun, hot tub, and dine in the fresh air. Two issues have cropped up in our time down here. First of all, the sun is on the north and not the south. To someone who has only lived in the Northern Hemisphere this is very disorienting and destroys your sense of direction. Second, we went through a change of time last week, and although it is April, it is Fall down here, and the clocks went back one hour, meaning that it is now dark at 5:30 pm. These two things take some getting used to.

Aussie Oddities

It was a Dark and Stormy night
...... no, not the opening to a turgid murder mystery novel; a Dark and Stormy is a local favourite drink. It consists of rum mixed with Ginger Beer, and it is very good as long as the mix is not too sweet.

Is it just me, or would you feel a little uncomfortable leaving your life's savings in a bank called Nab? There is a national chain of banks here called National Australian Bank, [Nab], and it doesn't seem to strike anyone else as a bit sinister. Talk about truth in advertising!

A Shopping Cart? Nope; in Oz it's called a Trolley!

Aboriginal Clap Sticks. Used by the women for food preparation; it can grind, break seeds, roll dough and squeeze juice from fruit. Male members of a tribe cannot speak to a woman until she receives her set of Clap Sticks; usually at the age of about 13. In the evenings the female members of the tribe use the sticks to beat out rhythms to songs passed orally from generation to generation.

We also found out what the Aboriginals call a boomerang that doesn't come back – a stick!

More roadsigns; do you get the feeling that the area is teeming with wildlife?


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