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Tourist in Brisbane and Gold Coast

On January 8th I hopped on a plane for my first international trip since giving birth to Adam, I was on my way to Australia! The trip was to meet with some of my Australian colleagues and present at Linux.conf.au, but I added a weekend of padding at the beginning of the trip so I could adjust somewhat to the time zone and take in some local sights.

I arrived later than anticipated on Friday due to a cancelled flight. In retrospect, I was grateful that I was able to at least arrive on the right day, another colleague of mine wasn’t so lucky and found himself put on a flight that wouldn’t get him in until Saturday. I thought I’d be tired upon my arrival, but the jet lag was doing its work and I managed to have enough time to drop my bags off at my hotel and make my way over to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary to catch the tail end of their opening hours and pet some critters!

I kind of joke that I want to pet a new animal each time I visit Australia. It was easy at first, finding a place where you can pet kangaroos and koalas is pretty straight-forward. Then it starts getting harder. You can’t pet Tasmanian devils, so on my trip to Tasmania I managed to pet a baby wombat instead. I didn’t get to pet any new critters while I was in Sydney a couple years ago, but this time I really wanted to pet something new. The dingo petting tours were sold out for the day, but while walking around the free-range feeding area I spotted a couple emus, with children petting them! The emu was not on my list of things I wanted to pet, they’re huge and I’m generally afraid of birds. Still, I had a goal, and bravely walked up to the critter and quickly petted it before making a hasty retreat!

More photos from my adventure here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157712791286013

On Saturday I met up with my friend Steve from Sydney, who was also staying in Brisbane over the weekend prior to the conference. We didn’t have super solid plans for the day, but there are a couple sights to see in the city, so we just started walking. We passed by City Hall and learned about the historic clock tour and picked up tickets for later in the day and did a quick loop around the small museum they have there at City Hall. We walked past the hilariously poetic casino housed in the historic treasury building. Then it was over a bridge to have lunch at a Saccharomyces Beer Cafe before making our way to the Queensland Museum where we got to see some dinosaurs, and a stuffed cassowary that was kept far from the other animals (even dangerous when they’re dead? hah!).

I think the highlight of my day was the clock tour tour. It wasn’t long or extensive in any way, but it was a fun surprise. The whole thing takes about 12 minutes, during which they take you up in a beautiful, historic elevator (lift) up to the 12th floor to walk around and see the sights from what was once the highest point in the city. From there they stop for a minute on the 11th floor where the clocks actually live, but you aren’t permitted to get out due to fears of damaging the clock equipment. Still, it was interesting to see, and learn about.

Sunday was travel to Gold Coast day! I say “travel” but it was an easy train ride down there, plus a cab for the final few miles to my hotel. There I went to visit the beach (it is Gold Coast, after all!) and met up with people for food. I didn’t end up swimming at the beach at all, which I’m a little disappointed about, but with this being my first big trip away from my new family, I put a high value on sleep, and a sandy beach visit just didn’t make the cut.

Some more photos from my walks around Brisbane and Gold Coast here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157712789955952

The conference itself was as spectacular as ever, and I’ll write about that later. But I wasn’t done with touristing. Steve and I met up at 3:30AM one morning for a group shuttle that would take a whole basket-full of tourists up in a hot air balloon! It was an experience that had been on my list for some time, but it’s common for them to want to lift off at extremely early times, so I could never make it happen. This was the perfect opportunity. By 5:30AM we were up in a balloon for a beautiful ride over the hills and farms inland from Gold Coast.

The timing of the tour meant that the only bit of the conference we missed were the keynotes, which was a trade-off I was willing to make. Five-day conferences are pretty intense, especially when I’m on the hook for giving two talks.

Hot air balloons are interesting things. The only real control the pilot has is to go up and down, aside from that the whole adventure is dependent on the wind. As a result, every ride is different and you never really know where you’ll end up. The company who runs the tours has agreements with many of the local farmers to land in their fields, under certain conditions, and the farmers are compensated for this. It’s a nice system. We landed on the far end of a field full of cows! When the ride concluded, we had the option of helping them pack away the hot air balloon, which was actually a lot of fun.

We were then shuttled off to a local winery for a champagne breakfast, in keeping with an international tradition of having champagne at the conclusion of a hot air balloon ride. I also took the opportunity while there to do an 8AM wine tasting, and for some reason they had alpacas! So I got to visit those too, and walked along a stream where they have wild platypuses, but I didn’t see any. There were some ducks though.

Check out more photos from the day (including the alpacas!) here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157712789962642

Australia is one of my favorite places in the world, so I’m glad I was able to do a bit of tourist stuff the weekend before the conference. Bonus that it helped me adjust to jet lag quickly, so I was at the top of my game for my first talk on Monday.