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Tips For Your Trip To Australia

IN THE March 30 ISSUE

FROM THE 2012 Articles,
andDiana Hockley,
andTravel
SECTIONS

by Diana Hockley

I see you’re packing your bags for an overseas holiday! Perhaps you are contemplating a trip to Australia, and while you are here you may drop in on my “neck of the woods,” the Valleys of the Scenic Rim.

King Parrot In Dianna's back garden

We are very protective of our region. Situated just over an hour from Brisbane, an hour and a half from surrounding provincial cities and the Gold Coast, Boonah is a fabulous to stay in southeast Queensland.
March to October is the best time to visit – warm, sunny days and cold nights, makes this an ideal destination weather-wise. You’d better pack a warm coat, boots, a beanie, sweater and some T-shirts for your outer wear. The temperature may get down to -3 (26.6F) but during the day can rise to 19 degrees Celsius (66.2F) and even higher. The sun sets around 5pm in what we like to call our winter and rises around 7 a.m.

Valleys of the Scenic Rim

After landing at Brisbane International Airport, capturing your luggage, braving customs and the sniffer dogs (bless them!) you will be wondering how to get to the city to start your trip of a lifetime. The air train will cost $15.50 per person, $13.95 if you book online before you come ($31 for 2, $27.90 online for 2 adults) to the Brisbane CBD.

Alternatively, there are several shuttle bus services to the city, but these need to be pro-booked and they are extraordinarily coy about their charges. The airport transfer service to our area is very expensive indeed, but can be booked if you are feeling brave. If you should want to stay in Brisbane for a day or so to get your bearings, you can obtain a Brisbane Pass ($63 pp) which includes return train tickets into Brisbane CBD and the city sights tour. You can hop on, hop off and set your own pace around the city, have a meal, walk in the park and then off on again for the next part of the tour. You can also cruise the river on a City Cat ferry which you can board anywhere along the way.

When you are ready to head on out to the Scenic Rim, a car will be necessary because there is no public transport to our Valley. However, the usual suspects in the Brisbane rental car business will be alert and ready for your business. Booking ahead is always a smart move!

Australian Brush Mountain Possum

Driving on the left hand side of the road could be a nervous proposition for awhile, but stay in the outside lane as much as possible and follow the car in front. You will need a GPS unit, so inquire about this when you book your car.

You can hire an automatic or manual (stick shift) car, but the steering wheel will be on the right hand side of the vehicle. There is an upside to this, however, as your passenger on your left will be able to ride “shotgun” and screech, “George, you’re too close to the verge again!”

DRIVING:

So, you’ve loaded your luggage in the boot (trunk) of the car, put on your seatbelts (the law in Australia) pulled into the traffic and found Ipswich Road. Cling to the left lane and breathe deeply…that’s it, you’ve got the idea! Aussies measure distance in time, not kilometres. For example, Brisbane to Sydney is 939kilometres or about 12 hours, Brisbane to Alice Springs, 3005kl and several days! Brisbane to Boonah is 97.6 kilometres, 60.6 miles or 1 hour, 16 minutes if the traffic is running well on the motorway.

On weekends, you may pass a STOP REVIVE SURVIVE station, where volunteers from the Lions Club, Rotary or others will have tea and coffee available for the fatigued. A rest room will be nearby.

ALCOHOL

The legal alcohol limit is 0.05 for car drivers, 0% if you are driving a truck or coach. The legal speed limit is usually 50klms for central business district areas and some suburbs, 60klms in suburbs, 40klms past schools – 7-9 & 2-4pm – and graduating 80 to 110klms on the open road. Locking your car up, even in rural towns is unfortunately necessary.

It is a criminal offense in Australia to drive under the influence of drugs.

Speed cameras are installed at known “black spots” and highway overhead cameras are mounted on major highways. Drink/drive roadblocks are frequently conducted by police and you must stop if directed.

DRIVING AFTER DARK

When you meet an oncoming car on country roads in Australia, it is a courtesy to dip your headlights until it has passed. Likewise, if a car overtakes you, it is considered courteous to dip your headlights until the over-taker is out of sight.

In rural Australia, roads are rife with kangaroos on the road from dusk onward and sometimes koalas. Be aware of livestock wandering or sleeping on the road also, as you are always passing through farmland and animals get through fences!

Kangaroo in Scenic Rim Mountains

Snakes are generally not around in the winter, thank goodness, but if you may do see one on the road, do not try to squash it with your car, just give it time to escape. They have been known to rear up and hook themselves under the car, thereby giving a whole new meaning to the words, “ankle cringe.”

Boonah is in the western heart of the Scenic Rim, nestled between the mountains on rich, alluvial ancient volcano bed. Yes, it’s dead!

Satellite villages in the Valley are Kalbar, Aratula and Harrisville all surrounded by farmland and mountains. This is a crop growing area – carrots, onions, pumpkins, beans, peas, potatoes, olives and grapes. We have a number of well established wineries, all of which invite visitors to conduct a close inspection of their products and some have restaurants.

EcoCottage at Boonah

As you approach the Rim, the blue mountain range will be spread out in front of you. Every time we come back from the city, the sight of the ranges lifts our spirits and calms our souls. We’re home! If we arrive after dark, the lights of the farm houses in the surrounding mountains twinkle like diamonds in black velvet.

INFORMATION CENTRES

All but the very smallest country towns have Visitor Information Centres which are staffed from 9.30-4pm, with restrooms either on site or nearby. They are sign-posted with a yellow sign or flag with a blue i
At the smallest bush towns, you can ask a question of anyone at the pub or the grocery store – they’ll know the answer!

REST ROOMS

Country towns have parks with toilet facilities and our town is no exception.

Service stations have facilities for customers, but you may have to ask for the key at the front counter. Supermarkets and shops do not have rest rooms available to the public, but country pubs have rest rooms.
You can obtain a bottle of antiseptic hand wash at supermarkets which is a good idea for road travel in our country. Bush toilets on the side of the road are generally attached to a tank, but the water is not fit for consumption and I always feel icky about holding food after washing my hands in it. Sometimes there is no water available.

ACCOMMODATION

Australian MOTELS supply tea and coffee making facilities, milk in the refrigerator, occasionally a toaster, crockery and cutlery. Many motels serve breakfast at an extra cost, others have their own restaurant. If you are on a budget – and most of us are – a thermos of tea or coffee and an Esky (portable icebox) on the back seat of the car with essential breakfast and or lunch ingredients will save you a fortune! The bar refrigerator in the motel will have a small freezer for the ice bricks in your Esky.
COUNTRY PUBS (hotels) are great places to stay, relaxation in an old world setting. A feature of most is the wide, wooden verandah on the upper floor, usually surrounded by gorgeous iron lacework. Some have en suites with the rooms, but also have communal shower and toilet facilities.

There will be a TV lounge with coffee and tea making accrutiments; all serve breakfast in the dining room. There will often be parking for guests behind the building, and this will probably be locked during the night for security. Guests can notify the hosts that they expect to be late back will generally be given keys for the main or back door and gate to the parking area.

Motels and hotels have electric blankets on the beds in winter. Don’t expect this is Darwin!

RV PARKS

Should you wish to stay in a caravan park there will be choice of cabins (frequently called Van Units for some obscure reason), on site caravans or bring-your-own caravan or tent. Enquire if the cabin or van has a bathroom because you may find yourself scampering across to the shower and toilet block in the wee small hours. If you think you might be staying in these places, a pair of plastic clogs to wear in the shower block and shower stall would be an excellent and safe idea.

Most recreational parks have a few “en suites” which have a toilet beside the van site for an extra cost.

Not all on site accommodation in these parks include bed linen, pillows and towels in the tariff. Some will charge extra for these necessities, others will expect you to have brought your own. Always wise to enquire before you check in! Likewise, some places will allow pets (under control).

B & B’s & COTTAGES

There are a number of these accommodation establishments in our valley, ranging in price from budget to 5 star Pavilions and resorts. The Boonah website link is at the end of this article for you to find out what is offered. One gorgeous place is right in the middle of our town, walking distance from the main street, provides a Continental breakfast. Two fabulous cottages five minutes outside, surrounded by bush with amazing views, provide linen at an extra cost. Everything else is there, but you bring your own food. Bed and Breakfasts, of course, provide all.

Eco Cottage at Boonah

FOOD

Addicts abandon hope – we do not have a McDonalds or Kentucky Fried in or near Boonah!

Our area is blessed with a wonderful selection of restaurants and cafes where you can get a good meal for $10-$25. Tipping is not mandatory in Australia, as it is in some countries, though I suspect one would be expected to do so in an upmarket city restaurant. Many cafes and restaurants in the country will have a large glass jar by the cash register where customers may – if they wish – put a tip, which is shared by the staff.

The local pubs all serve meals, though travelers need to be aware that most close on Monday night because they are open all weekend. Those that do stay open at night, often close by 8.30pm, except on Friday and Saturday night. Country cafés sometimes stay open a little later and serve chips or burgers, but you can’t count on that.

Bottle shops attached to pubs open from 10am-6pm, but after that time, one can buy a bottle of wine or beer in the bar. Most large towns in Australia have liquor barns, where one can obtain alcohol in a warehouse-style setting.

ENTERTAINING IN AUSSIELAND

INVITATION TO THE BARBIE (aka the Barbeque)

Australians love to barbeque when the weather is great and even when it is not! If you have been invited to one of these informal gatherings, you will be told “Don’t bring a thing!” Aha!!! You so must bring something, but what? It is mandatory to bring a bottle of wine and/or some beer which you will hand to your hostess, who will then add it to the few thousand bottles that are already there, but what else? A quick trip to the local bakery for an icing-laden cake will suffice – or a scramble around the supermarket to buy cheese biscuits and a dip.

Don’t spin out if you are asked to “bring a plate” Make your quick trip to the bakery or the supermarket and fill a plate with whatever you have purchased!

A long standing BBQ tradition is that the host cooks, while the male guests cluster around him, drinking beer – pretty much as in America I should imagine. The women run like mad things, making salads, setting tables and buttering bread rolls while trying to keep the kids from falling in the pool, being sick with over-excitement and the family dog from stealing the meat.

After everyone else, including the dog, has eaten the women will sit in a huddle at the far end of the garden, shivering in the cold night air, eating cold, tough meat and limp salad, wishing they could go home. Should you be a woman on this trip, you will be expected to join them. If you’re a man, you will guffaw around the barbie with the boys. It doesn’t matter if you don’t understand the footie (soccer or rugby) or the finer points of cricket. Just smile a lot and hope your wife remembers she is the designated driver!

PERSONAL

No matter the time of year, Queensland has the most punishing sun! Even on cloudy days, it is wise to wear a sun block and hat when outside, especially for children. Cloudy days can be the worst of all for sunburn.

I cannot stress this enough!

LOCAL FACILITIES

Our local Visitor’s Centre has, of course, information on shop and garage opening times, taxis, church services, clubs and service organizations. We have an accredited art gallery, and the cultural centre offers a movie on Friday or Saturday nights. We offer art house cinema once a month, and the local markets are the 2nd and 4th Saturday of each month, 7am – noon. You can check your emails at the library for free, but printing costs 10c per page. Some pubs have free Wi-Fi connection.

Boonah has some interesting country shopping, and Kalbar, a tram antique shop as well as superb local architecture to view.

Bush walking in the national parks, eco-touring at the donkey sanctuary, camping, horse riding (farm stay) golf, water-skiing, jet skiing, canoeing, motorcycle riding, fishing, swimming at the hydrotherapy pool, town pool or the lakes are all there for the intrepid traveller.

And a special treat for the truly certifiable – rock climbing with the mad people who like to tackle Frog Buttress on a regular basis!

http://www.boonahtourism.org.au/ (for those who wish to see our gorgeous Valley of the Scenic Rim)

Diana Hockley is an Australian mystery author who lives in a southeast Queensland country town. She is the devoted slave of five ratties & usually finds an excuse to mention them in her writing, including her recent novel, The Naked Room. Since retiring from running a traveling mouse circus for 10 years, she is now the mouse judge for the Queensland Rat & Mouse Club shows. To learn more, check out her website.

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