Somehow, upper management had been convinced sending you to Brisbane was a good plan. It was probably thanks to Charles justifying "I need the lead designer", and your notes that you could "speak the language", that you were obliged with a business class ticket via warm Dubai to chilly Brisbane. One last game of Carcasonne on the ipad at Zürich airport with Meike came close to making you late for boarding, curiously, on a different flight to Charles.
The plan was to spend a week in the Brisbane office to meet your contacts face to face and to close as many open points as possible. Somehow the visit landed in a four-day week, so you could see a little bit of Australia and not just work. Charles had given you the task of arranging accomodation, travel and entertainment while in Brisbane - a job you were happy to accept, although it did make you feel like his personal assistant / chauffeur.
Day one, Sunday, was arrival and acclimatisation. You both easily found your way to the hotel, which had not yet opened for check-in, so you left your bags and wandered into the CBD for breakfast. Although already 8am, Brisbane was quiet and empty. There was a chilling wind blowing through the streets and the sun was hidden by clouds. Few caffes and even fewer shops were open; it was Sunday after all. You wandered the streets together past at least four Pie Face shops (the new Starbucks of pies?) until happening across a friendly-looking open door cafe.
The morning was spent walking along the Brisbane River whilst being thoroughly amused by the amount of cautionary signage. Every mode of travel along the paths was banned: no bikes, no rollerblades, no skateboards and, most dominantly denouncingly displayed, no segways! Sunday afternoon you drove south to the Gold Coast. It was windy as buggery but the water was warm enough to swim. After seeing little more than beaches, tall hotels and expensive parking you headed back to Brisbane for dinner.
Monday, being a public holiday, was bond to make spontaneous tour plans hard to arrange. Regardless, you found an offer from a small tour operator to visit Moreton Island - the the third largest sand island in the world, 58km off the coast of Brisbane. It was an early start, not at all a problem considering jet lag, with the meeting point directly adjacent to the hotel. The driver was a scraggly dude who looked like a cross between a surfer and a jazz musician. During the drive to the boat he told us about his jazz band and snake handling side-business. The New Zealand family who were along for the ride spoke to him bout AFL for the rest of the drive.
The ferry ride over to the island with the 4x4 took about an hour, during with you were entertained by the ferry kiosk girl's announcements. She tended to put an upward inflection on the end of her sentences making everything she said sound like a question. Once there, you were driven up the one deep-sand road which crosses the island to the sand dunes in the middle. The dude, who by that stage had woken up a bit, explained about all the island's plants (e.g. Foxtail, which looks like a fox's tail; imaginative), animals and history. This had the effect of changing his image from a stoned surfer to a bushman-ranger of sorts. He knew quite a lot of Aboriginal island history and customs; he'd clearly been doing this tour for a while.
Everyone waxed their planks of plywood and walked along the dune ridge to the steepest part. The sand was wet but that didn't seem to slow you down one bit - just after nudging yourself over the edge you were flying down the slope at scarry speeds. You were instructed to lay flat, pull the end of the board up and keep your mouth shut. Everyone followed the first two instructions on their first run while yelling AAAAAAAAAGH! and getting a mouthfull. After an hour everyone was standing, some even surfing down the sand dunes. Following sand boarding, a short snorkel near the shipwrecks was fun but visibility was less than three meters.
The bumpy tour continued to the other side of the island, all the while your guide explaining how natives used the land. There had been a long standing feud between two neighboring island tribes - symbolic spear throwing at each other's island from afar was the norm - until someone noticed there were some good-looking sheelas on the other side, and a few marriages later they made peace. While explaining, the guide handed you some wild passion fruit to try. The long drive up the east coast got you feeling a little motion sick, as the 4x4 swerved between waves keeping close to hard sand. Lunch was under a tarpolen tent while the rain rolled in and mozzies zoomed around.
Moreton Island has a lighthouse, from which there was a good view back over the island and out to sea. Apart from some pods of dolphins there wasn't much going on. You went via a big freshwater lake back across the island, past some wartime installations (now crumbling into the sea) and back to wait for the ferry. It was a long day.
Brisbane Office Overflow
After winning a big project the Brisbane office staff swelled in number by three times in one month. With so many new and transferred people there, a bit of disorganisation was to be expected. Meetings were being held in corridors, and desks doubled up. No one really knew their own job parameters let alone who could make decisions, so the standard answer to every question was: "Yeah, let's have a meeting next week". If that didn't cut it - you were only there for four days, damn it - a swift delegation sent you down the hall to Steveo. Steveo would try the same meetin-next-week tactic, then send you onwards to Johno. With Steveo and Johno in tow you went to Rob'o, Gaza, Tezza, Mick and Phil, each joining your conga-line of uninformed delegation. Finally, with a group of seven blokes (perhaps exaggerated), you arrived at Ted who said: "Steveo can answer that!" Whereupon "Naa mate, not me!" was heard from the back of the line. The circle of delegation was complete.
By day two Charles (who came with you from Europe) had a plan to deal with the indecisiveness: Say, don't ask. Rather than present options for others to select, you just told them what you would do and demanded a signature by the end of the day, lest cause delays. No on could deal with the responsibility of causing lateness, so all of you open points were wraped up swiftly. You had the feeling you could have offered a vehicle with only three wheels and they'd have agreed :)
One day after lunch at the Mediterranean place - very good food, took a while but worth it - the office you two were using had been commandeered by some poor sod looking for a workplace. You booted him out and went on with your work, and then noticed how quiet it was in the building. At only 4pm most of the staff had already gone home - probably gone surfing. Damn, what an easy work-day in sunny Brisbane! While you marveled at the five computer screens on the desk next door (no wonder they have space issues), Charles went to find the French brakes-bloke to ask about fine dining in the CBD. He was a cool guy, and he directed you to Cha Cha Char - Brisbane's best steak resturant of 2013. You ended up dining there twice durning the week. On your second visit the waiters noticed your return and welcomed you both back, probably assuming you were a fine-dining gay couple. Fabulous.
Brisbane is a tidy little city with a nice, chilled atmosphere. Unlike Sydney with its achsphysiating traffic congestion, Brisbane street and pedestrian and traffic flows along stress-free. At the end of the week on of the Brizzy blokes directed you to Kangeroo Point: a long wall illuminated by night and set up for climbing, right in the middle of Brisbane on the river. You headed oven in the evening and traversed along the wall. The rocks were interesting to climb by night.
Saterday you planned to drive down the coast to Byron Bay and meet Brendon. Charles had been hearing a lot about Byron in the office, about the beaches and bikini surfing babes, and was really keen to get wet. The weather obliged and cold grey clouds hung in the sky all day, occationally sprinkling rain. You arrived, found a park and waited at the beach for Brendon.
The day was spent pfaffing about in the sand and in the Twisted Sister cafe, where a sign hung stating: "No WiFi, talk to each other". This was no hinderence to Brendon who used his phone data to post pictures of his food to Facebook. Meanwhile, you car had been parked in two-hour zone (the sign was obscured) and had a $105 fine waiting under the windscreen wiper. Twenty minutes over the limit and you'd been busted. Byron didn't seem to have much love for tourists, especially their vehicles.
Later, after lunch you hired long surfboards with Charles and headed to the southern end of the beach. The waves were small but friendly to get started. This actually being your first time on a full-sized board meant you spent the two hours falling off and being dumped. Practice needed.