The Third Australian Leg

After spending three weeks in Melbourne, VIC, and two weeks in Sydney, NSW, we were on our way

to Brisbane, Queensland, for the last leg of our Australian adventure, a two-week home exchange on the Sunshine Coast. An exchange radically different not only from our two earlier exchanges in Australia but the majority of our home exchanges in general.

When we first began to travel via home exchanges, we lived on a ranch in rural Texas and in the foothills of one of Costa Rica’s many volcanic mountain ranges, at the edge of a sleepy small town. In other words, we already had plenty of tranquility and lovely green stuff galore. Instead, we were seeking to exchange in loud and sizzling urban settings. We offered this:

while hoping for that:

Since many home-exchangers across the globe are looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of their stressful city lives, this concept worked out well for both parties involved.

One the other hand, our Sunshine Coast exchange was one of those rare occasions when we deliberately looked for a laid-back, a quiet exchange. This one was supposed to be a rest period between jazzy urban stints in Australia and China. Mostly, though, it was a personal visit with a childhood friend I hadn’t seen in a long time, one of my classmates from boarding school, way back when we were obnoxious teenager girls locked away in a nunnery. The link connects to a wiki page in German about this nunnery founded over 800 years ago. In our school days, it was a large convent and most of our teachers were nuns. We wore gray and blue school uniforms, skirts only, no matter how freezing cold it was inside those ancient stone walls. Makeup, nail polish, radios, TVs, and above all consorting with boys were strictly forbidden. Even before I moved across the Atlantic Ocean to live in the US, my mate emigrated to the Antipodes and has been a resident of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia, ever since.

At the very beginning of our sojourn in Australia, when we were introduced to our Melbourne exchange home by the homeowner, I mentioned that we were also going to stay in Sydney, followed by a fortnight on the Sunshine Coast, to meet up with “my German friend Gaby”. Oh, she said, we used to live on the Sunshine Coast and I have a friend named Gaby there too, a Gaby X. Her Gaby was my Gaby, and their sons are good friends. How is that for a coincidence?!

On the Sunshine Coast, our home-away-from-home, located in the Caloundra suburb of Pelican Waters, was a lovely, spacious bungalow with multiple outdoor sitting and dining areas overlooking the canals along which the neighborhood was purpose built as a water-based community with access to the ocean.

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Grocery shopping or marketing, as my late mom-in-law always called it, was a little less convenient in this location than it had been in the cities since it was a long walk to the nearest supermarket. A pretty walk, as you can see,

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but carrying back heavy bags over a distance of almost three kilometers isn’t a lot of fun, especially on hot, sunny days. We had expected to be able to take a cab back, as we would do in Costa Rica, but we never saw a taxi because everyone living in that area has a car. Fortunately, though, we’re clever rascals and after some google-ing to assess our options, we followed the adage of ‘mater artium necessitas’ and joined the Caloundra Power Boat Club. The club provided us not only with restaurant and café options, not to mention a mini-casino but, most importantly, a shuttle bus to and from home. The shops were still a 20 min walk further on, but after a nice refreshment at the club, the bus would take us and our bags home for a cool-down in the pool and a leisurely glass of wine on our terrace to enjoy the sunset over a peaceful canal-scape.

Most of our time on the Sunshine Coast, however, we spent with Gaby and her husband Alistair, either at their place or out and about exploring this coastal region of eastern Australia. They would pick us up and host some wonderful events, occasions, and outings through which we got to know them anew. We also met several generations of family members and many of their friends. Naturally, those were private times and I won’t talk about it too much here. We did do a couple of outings, though, that I want to record in this home-exchange journal because it does show some aspects of southern Queensland’s beauty and attraction for international visitors. Not least the many, gorgeous, sandy beaches

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and the unique vegetation.

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Early on during our visit to the Sunshine Coast, Gaby took me for a walk along the coastal path of the Noosa Headlands, where whales cavort at certain times of the year [not when we were there, alas] and surfers ply the waves.

In addition to towering Norfolk Island pines [Araucaria heterophylla, synonym A. excelsa, Araucariaceae] and my beloved native Australian gum trees [Eucalyptus sp., Myrtaceae], the Sunshine Coast of southern Queensland features two quintessential Australian plants, the coastal screwpine also called screw palm, which is neither pine nor palm [Pandanus utilis, Pandanaceae] and Banksias, the many, many ‘bottlebrushes’ [Banksia sp., Proteaceae] we already encountered in NSW.

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[Unripe] compound fruit of a common screwpine

We hiked through the coastal bush, on and above rocky beaches along the beautifully maintained cliff path of the Noosa Headlands National Park, working up a nice appetite for the lunch to follow.

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In the park, we came across several Australian brush-turkeys [Alectura lathami, Megapodiidae] which look much like the unrelated American turkey. These Australian birds with large feet are superprecocial mound-builders. The males build mud nests, the mounds, upholstered with combustible materials he diligently collects, and into which successions of females lay their eggs. He positions the eggs quite specifically and adds or removes nesting material for temperature control during the incubation. The chicks hatch fully developed and feathered, ready to fly and fend for themselves as soon as their feathers have dried.

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Come along already, Gaby said, and I tried to hurry, but the vistas were such that I just had to stop to take a picture every few steps. Especially when confronted with oddities like coins hammered into a fallen, decaying tree.

Only later did I learn about what appears to be an old Scottish custom. One leaves a coin in a tree and with it, one’s illness. If someone takes a coin from such a wishing tree, the illness will beset the thief. These coin-studded wishing trees can be found in Wales also, so maybe it was originally a Gælic tradition. Wishing trees in general, are well known globally and an ancient tradition in many cultures.

Other trees in the Noosa park were, though entirely without coin, especially enticing through the beauty of their layered bark’s texture and color.

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Approaching the wide curve of Granite Bay, the cliffs become steeper and more rugged. Every now and then break-neck stone steps allow access to the churning sea. Surfers have to carry their boards down these stairs to reach the crashing waves below.

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Returning to Noosa after our hike, we rewarded ourselves with an exquisite lunch, while a heavy rainstorm rapidly cleared the beach in front of our protected restaurant terrace.

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3 thoughts on “The Third Australian Leg

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