Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Coolangatta to Brisbane

Continued up the Gold Coast, which, as Airie had said, could have been named after the climate or the price of real estate. Either way, it's a good address for the upwardly mobile to have. Striking, gleaming bodies abound on this stretch of coast, complementing the striking, gleaming buildings. Hundreds of people were out and about, walking dogs in bikinis, jogging and surfing; on (what was for them) an autumnal Monday at 10 am. What a country! I was following this one muscle-bound, bronzed adonis, riding 'no hands' along the beach path - but then passing him I said hello and noticed he was 60 if he was a day. The priciest gold bricks on the coast are located in Surfers' Paradise at the Brisbane end, where even more hideous homages to mammon overlook the crisp, white sands. It should be called High Rise Hell or Disturbing Distopia - and how can the people who dwell in the units within them think they have anything special - when there's hundreds of thousands of others just the same?

At Helensvale, I'm afraid to say I once again went back on my original mantra of staying on two wheels for the whole journey, by boarding a train for the remaining 50 kms to the CBD. Airie had told me the traffic would be just like Sydney's and as Linda had put it, "You're not on a mission from God". If there's one thing this country has shown me it's that I shouldn't be so hard on myself and that, as they say here, "She'll be right".

While licking an ice cream (apparently they are usually 50 cents, but it's 'loose change month' at McDonald's) in Brisbane Central, I people-watched. As usual the waistlines of most over-25s were in a sorry state of expansion and the under-25s seemed to be making all kinds of fashion faux pas. It was only 3.45 and if the station was anything to go by, the city was busy, busy, busy. I headed for the information booth to enquire about travelling north (another 30 kms lay between city centre and destination) to be told bikes were not permitted on any services from 3.30 to 6.30. Rather than wait, or look around at I didn't know what, I went in search of bike path maps. I was directed to Tourist Information and from there to the Council HQ. Although I was given a couple, it was hard work to stick to the paths they detailed, with poor signage, in an alien city. What I really wanted was a path straight to the suburb of Kallangur, but that was asking a bit much. As in Sydney, commuters on road bikes left me for dust, and also like Sydney I asked a friendly-looking cyclist for help. Again I was chaperoned, in this instance by a lady who said she would be too slow for me, but was pretty fast, especially considering her lack of gears and the rustiness of her chain. When I suggested she lubricate it, she replied that bike maintenance was beyond her. Like 99% of the population, she had been to Scotland - and admired it greatly. She worked for the Main Roads Department though, the traitor. After we went our separate ways and I opted for one of her thoroughfares, as it was quick and direct, I had a brainwave. I had been looking at all the fat arms hanging out of open car windows inches away from me and thinking I'd love to chainsaw them off, when another violent idea occurred to me. As there are far too many cars on the roads and financial measures have no effect, one way for governments to reach this achieve could be to fit unremovable electronically-activated explosives to every vehicle. Because the petrol heads are causing an environmental time bomb, why not make the very objects of destruction into ticking time bombs themselves? Here's how it would work. Every month 1,000 cars would be blown up at exactly the same random time, chosen at random, by pressing a button. No one would ever drive. Problem solved. It's brilliant. I'm a genius.

Arrived in Kallagur at 7 pm with my new job as a sustainable transport consultant all worked out. My Warm Shower's host explained over a welcome omelette how she had not ridden a bike from childhood until she was in her sixties, when suddenly she realised what she had been missing all those years. Now in her seventies, she rides every other day, has toured other countries, and of course in the process her health and wellbeing have improved enormously. My health and wellbeing were shocked to discover their master would be taking them on a leisure ride on a day off and they were to be required at 5.45 am! Meryl went to bed at 9.30 and with this rude awakening in mind, I soon followed.

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