In November 2015, our Working Holiday Visa in New Zealand was finishing, and we planned to spend our final month of travelling relaxing and exploring one of our favourite destinations, Bali.
In the early hours of 5th November we turned up at the airport in Christchurch, we were early so it was quiet but the check in agents couldn’t find us on the flight, then we heard other passengers behind us talking about an ash cloud in Lombok following volcanic ash spewing from Mt. Rinjani just hours before, and it soon turned out she couldn’t find our names as there was no flight, the flight had been cancelled due to unsafe flying conditions.
We had the option of waiting until it was safe to fly, which could be days away or just book another flight to somewhere else. Our issue was our Visa expired that very day, so we didn’t think we would be allowed to stay / or it would have been a hassle to liaise with the authorities. Our original flight had a stop off in Brisbane before heading to Bali, so we decided very spur of the moment to head to Brisbane and stay there until we could get on the next leg of our flight. This flight was leaving soon, and we had to run to immigration to order a fast-tracked Australian Tourist Visa before getting on the flight (this was around $50 each).
Just under 4 hours later we arrived at Brisbane airport and so we made our way to the familiar CBD. We had lived in Brisbane back in 2011 when we were on our Australian Working Holiday Visa and it was bittersweet being back. We never had intentions of returning to Brisbane, nor so soon.
In the past 4 years the city had grown though, there were so many more skyscrapers getting built and already towering over the city. We booked into Brisbane City YHA hostel which is very centrally located just off Upper Roma Street (Roma Street being the main thoroughfare) We booked in to a private double room with en-suite which was great for us, and the best bit by far about the hostel was the roof top pool which overlooked the city. We would highly recommend this place!
We had a lot of phone calls to be making with the airline, rebooking our Bali flight and liaising with customer services on how they would notify us when we could travel, but it wasn’t looking like the ash cloud was going to disappear anytime soon. So rather than get bogged down with it all, we made the most of our time in Brisbane.
We revisited our old house on Cricket Street, we went to some bars and restaurants we used to go to, we checked out my old work ‘Gambaro’ on Caxton Street. We drank our favourite XXXX and Great Northern beers.
Wednesday’s are for CBD markets, there are so many stalls selling local and foreign produce, we headed to the Turkish Bakery and it was sooo good we went back again!
We also ate at Vapiano and had yummy pizza and the best desserts ever! Another day we had cakes and milkshakes at Cowch on the South Bank which is just a dessert and cocktail bar.
We also done the touristy things of sightseeing and walking around The South Bank which is a 17-hectare area which is a hive of activity with the Wheel of Brisbane and Nepal Peace Pagoda and there is also an amazing area to swim in, complete with a beach, right on the banks of the Brisbane River. There are also museums and art galleries, picnic spots and gorgeous parklands, along with the Kurilpa Bridge and Storey Bridge which cross the Brisbane River.
And we decided to make the most of our time in Brisbane by doing a few things we hadn’t done the first time around –
We took the train from Roma Street Station to Australia Zoo, home of the late Steve Irwin. We got another chance to hold koalas and hand feed kangaroos, we took as many photos of all the animals as we could, and we had a great day out. Tickets on the Zoo’s website are around $59 each but we headed to ‘Peterpan’s’ a travel shop for backpackers and got a bit of a discount.
Another day we booked a free guided tour of the City Hall and clock tower. We had to show up on the day and were told if and what time there was availability. The City Hall was built between 1920 and 1930 and is a great place to explore Brisbane’s history as the Museum of Brisbane is also located here. The clock tower was fascinating and the views out from the top of the tower over the city were gorgeous.
After 5 days in Brisbane we were told that our onward flight had been cancelled as there was no date set yet for flights resuming, and that we would be refunded in due course. So undeterred we decided that we should go somewhere else! So, we called our friends Shaun and Jodie and asked / kinda told them that we would be coming to see them in Perth! So, we booked flights and headed on a 5 and half hour flight to Perth on 12th November. They ever so kindly let us stay with them and took us out exploring Perth and Freo before Denpasar airport in Bali finally reopened on 15th November.
Here is Pam at the South Bank in 2011 and 2015