Sun’s up and it’s seven am. You’re on a bus to the lush Lockyer Valley, only 50 minutes from Brisbane’s city centre. You don’t want to think about it just yet, but you’re about to face one of the biggest brain-scrambling adrenalin buzzes you’ll ever have in your life – the low altitude ground rush jump.
The closest thing to base jumping you’ll find, you leap from a plane by yourself at a mere 3,000 feet, plummeting to the ground at 10 times the speed of an ordinary skydive. Just when you think you’re going to be tarmac jam, the chute snaps open automatically (by a line attached to the plane), and you’re back on terra firma. Alive!
Of course, if this psychotic behaviour is a little out of your scope, there is the good old heart-stopping tandem skydive. It still means hurling yourself out of a large piece of metal but here you have the reassurance of being attached to a qualified instructor and plenty more time and space (all 10,000 feet) to float down and enjoy the view. The only real thinking you have to do is deciding whether to do a rural or a beachside jump (both under an hour from the city).
From the physical to the metaphysical, it’s time to head back into the city to discover why Queenslanders are so laidback. First stop – the famous XXXX Brewery Tour. In the state-of-the-art alehouse, you can learn the secrets of the amber nectar which takes its name from a rating system devised by medieval monks.
You’ll learn about the brewery’s 125-year history and get up close and personal with the raw materials and processes including a bird’s eye view of the super speedy packaging line – which fills an awesome 2,400 stubbies a minute (pretty close to the time it takes a plane-load of backpackers to empty them).
Now if by some strange shift into an alternate universe you have resisted the free beer you get to drink on the tour, take a 20-minute hike over to the Kangaroo Point cliffs on the eastern side of the river, across from the city centre. There you can spend the early evening throwing yourself off the sheer rock face, or scrambling up it. There are usually climbing clubs and classes on site. No experience is necessary, just a bit of muscle and “never say die” attitude.
A big day deserves a big night out and on this Bris-manic tour it’s mandatory. Apparently in the old days, the only way to kick on into the wee hours was to head out to the International Airport bar (tragic) or like the old story about Brisbane doctors goes, connect yourself to a rehydration drip at the hospital while polishing off the last few takeaways.
Thankfully, Brissie is no longer the hick town it was. Fortitude Valley – otherwise known as ”The Valley” – is the place to be.
It’s an officially dedicated party precinct and those pesky residents who complained about the late night noise have been told to zip it.
Here you can find anything from multi-storey monster dance clubs, to indie band hangouts, and hardcore music venues. Not to mention the many cocktail bars, backpacker boozers, sleazy strip joints, traditional pubs and some good cheap Asian nosh on offer.
Morning never promised to be pretty. You slowly peel back your eyelids. Your head’s pounding. Your tongue feels like shagpile in a ‘70s flopshop. But what the hell, that’s what painkillers were made for…
Needless to say, you’ve earned some serious down time. Brisbane’s South Bank Beach, a man-made beach in the centre of the city, complete with white sand and a crystal clear lagoon, is the place to stretch out and catch a few rays. But just as you are approaching a zen-like state, piercing screams break the silence – it’s a group of toddlers running towards the water.
Time to exit and put that large grey organ in your skull through its paces. Luckily, the Queensland Cultural Centre is a short two-minute stroll away, mmm… brain food! There you’ll find the Queensland Art Gallery with its excellent exhibitions of indigenous, contemporary and classic Australian art.
Next door is the Queensland Museum, which has all sorts of nasties on display, including a gross spread of spiders and snakes in bottles that you just can’t stop staring at.
On the flip side, you’ll need to tweak that excitement muscle again and wander across the bridge to the casino. Who cares if it’s only 11am – you’ve survived the ground rush and you’re feeling lucky!
Now the one thing you can’t help notice about Brisbane is there are bloody trees everywhere and more chances to commune with nature than you ever thought possible in a capital city.
Hop on a river ferry, bus or train and spend the afternoon at a nature sanctuary or zoo, where you can cuddle the native fauna – but beware the locals are full of tales about how a koala once pissed on and bit a government minister during a promo spot. Reminds you of the wee bunny in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Your respect for the koala goes up a few notches.
Every great city has a famous bridge and Brisbane is no different. Standing 80m above sea level, the Story Bridge offers morning, day and night climbs with breathtaking 360-degree views of the city, the river, the mountain ranges and the gorgeous Moreton Bay Islands. It’s the best way to get high in Brissie.
After two days of nonstop activity, you feel like you’ve run a marathon and could chew through a plate of food like locusts in a wheat field.
Funky West End, along Boundary Road and Vulture Street, has plenty of cheap eats – Vietnamese, Japanese, Chinese, Singaporean, Greek, Turkish – for under 10 bucks. But Brisbane is also steak city – you still see cars with vintage bumper stickers demanding “Feed the Man Meat”. You’ll find pubs and bowling clubs in and around the inner city and along the river that turn on a mean bit of cow.
Belly full and it’s back to the hostel for some well-deserved kip. And maybe just a few drinks at the bar before bed, or a game of pool – who said backpackers have to suffer!
Finally, you hit the sack knowing you blitzed Brissie in 48 hours. Congratulations, you are now a bona fide Bris-maniac.
Photos: Getty, TNT