Post 18 of a series detailing our Australian adventure. Access the full series here.
Our last day in Brisbane was largely spent looking down at it: first from the top girders of Story Bridge and then from Mount Coot-tha, during a thunderstorm that trapped us there!
A great feature of Brisbane is the city hopper ferries, which take you between different points on Brisbane River for free. We took one from the South Bank 3 stop to Thornton Street, and then it was just a short walk to the Story Bridge Adventure Climb building – yes, we were going to climb the (second) most famous bridge in Australia!
After signing an indemnity form and, to our surprise, taking a breathalyzer test, we were given possibly the most unflattering suits in existence and asked to put them on in some changing rooms. These can go over your clothes, but we were advised to strip off underneath so that we didn’t get too hot. You’re not allowed to have anything around your wrists and they enforce this rule very strictly – so much so that the supervisor confiscated the hair-elastic I had around mine. You’re not allowed to bring any loose items either, meaning no hats, phones or cameras (which is why I don’t have any of my own photos from the experience). Any accessories you bring have to be attached to the suit by elastic, including your own sunglasses as well as the ugly caps and hair scrunchies supplied by them! It all seemed rather over the top to be honest.
So off we set, ginormous suits billowing and elasticated accessories dangling. The climb began with a tall metal staircase going up through the bridge’s undercarriage, which was enough on its own to get us sweating in our ‘boiler’ suits. When we got to the top, it was like the whole of Brisbane had been rolled out beneath us. I was gutted being unable to capture the panoramic, clear-sky views on my camera, but it felt great being up there and drinking it in. It was a little scary looking down through the metal grating at the fast-moving cars below – and feeling the bridge shake when a heavy truck went by – but it felt very safe. We all had earphones in attached to portable radios in our suits, through which we could hear instructions and commentary provided by our guide. Though a great idea in theory, unfortunately the radio wasn’t very clear and I missed a lot of the commentary as we were walking. Another complaint is that although the views were great, the novelty wore off during the hour we were up there and I felt we spent too much time standing around. The last thing we did was take it in turns to get our photos taken by the guide – ours is below!
We were absolutely starving by the time we got out, so grabbed lunch just down the street at the Shelter Bar of Story Bridge Hotel. I had a delicious pumpkin, cheese and spinach calzone, while Steve had a steak and Guinness pie with some of the best mash I’ve ever tasted. Once satiated we caught the city hopper back to Eagle Street and explored the city centre, finding a food market and a post office from which to post my postcards.
Our afternoon destination was Mount Coot-tha, a mountain outside town offering panoramic views of Brisbane and the surrounding areas. It was only a short bus ride from the centre, but unfortunately by the time we arrived the formerly clear skies had filled with grey clouds. The view was overhung with mist and, while Steve loved the drama, it wasn’t quite the view I’d been anticipating.
There’s a cafe, gift shop and restaurant on the mountain, and we were planning to have an afternoon snack outside – but ditched that plan when it started to rain. Instead we found a table inside and bought some tea, coffee and Devonshire scones with cream and jam. These scones were nothing like the ones you’d find in Devonshire: they were soft and bready, and the cream was whipped! But enjoyable nevertheless.
Meanwhile, the storm was getting worse. Thunder began booming and lightening flashing. The cafe filled up with dripping tourists and we all sat at our tables – for what felt like a very long time – waiting for the storm to subside. Only when we wandered into the gift shop did we find out that we’d been waiting such a long time that we’d missed the last bus! This situation was bad enough already, but it got worse when we tried to phone a taxi and found that the storm had knocked out the phone lines. Thus ensued another half-hour of sitting in the cafe, trying unsuccessfully to phone every taxi firm in town. Eventually we managed to get through on a payphone – and believe it or not, from that moment the rain died down to be replaced by a rainbow!
Unfortunately, our ordeal wasn’t over yet! The taxi ride back into town took ages and the traffic was awful; all adding up to a $35 bill that we wished we could have avoided.
With another taxi ride booked for 5am the next morning – in order to catch our flight to Uluru in Australia’s Red Centre – we decided on a relaxed night. We bought some meatballs in sauce from Woolworths, which back at home Steve cooked along with the remaining peas, garlic bread and cheese from the first meal in this flat. Brisbane had been fun, but we both felt that the best was yet to come – beginning when our flight touched down tomorrow.