After 5 months in Southeast Asia, finally I follow Paul’s invitation and recommendations to visit the National Parks on the East coast of Australia. I fly from Ho Chi Minh to Kuala Lumpur and then directly to Gold Coast, where Paul meets me at the airport early in the morning. We assembly my bicycle at the police station and take off. A few hundred meters away from the runway, we hit the beaches already. It feels like entering a completely different world, suddenly there are no scooters on the streets anymore but cyclists. The beach promenade is occupied by many runners and surfers, as well as regular pedestrians. There are proper road signs, and readable advertisements. Every now and then, there are public showers and drinking water supply on the beach, very charming.
In the distance, I can see the skyline of Surfers Paradise, a set of skyscrapers along the endless beaches. They are mainly hotels for the booming tourism, in an area that had little significance before surfing and beach holidays became popular a few decades ago. Now, Gold Coast is a city, with Surfers Paradise as its center, with lots of bars and night clubs including a heavy drinking and drug scene, as I'm told. Heaps of air brushed camper cars are parked everywhere - yeah - this is the Australian Dream of crossing the vast country on the own (or rather rented) 4 wheels :-)
I can stay in Pauls apartment for the first couple of days, and he shows me a bit around on the pushbikes. Near his home, there is already the first pretty much pristine forest, directly on a rocky hill over the Pacific, called Burleigh Heights. Big tame sort of turkeys walk everywhere, and hundreds and hundreds of pretty red, blue and white feathered birds sing their deafening song in the nearby park at sunset.
One day, we visit the Springbrook National Park. After a dozen kilometers, we have a second breakfast, stock up food for the ride and leave the populated area behind us. 24 kilometers on a small road winding up through beautiful rain forest. Giant ferns, Gum trees and small palms and hundreds of other plants create an impenetrable thicket, sometimes allowing a nice view down to the Pacific coast line. We visit a waterfall viewpoint at lunchtime, when it starts to rain. We carry on anyway, cycling to the next picnic area, hiking on small and steep trails for two or three hours down and up the valley again. The rain just amplifies the vivid green of the untouched forests, the moss on the giant trunks and rocks. Smaller waterfalls every now and then. The big Twin Falls offer a pool for a really refreshing bath. Never mind the rain, the spirits around here are incredible. Multidimensional impressions of nature, impossible to rehash on photographs. On and on we walk, eventually returning to our bicycles. Still raining gently, and 800 elevation meters to burn back to Gold Coast, spotting a few of these small and shy rainforest kangaroos on the way down.