As I might have mentioned , it was a very early start on Thursday to get to the airport for a 4 am check-in. As predicted, TopKat wasn’t able to come, so I was off on an adventure on my own. My bag was only 19.3 kg – I could have fitted another couple of books in there! The flight was pretty uneventful – highlight was seeing the full moon lighting up the tops of the clouds as we flew over the Tasman. I’m not great at sleeping on planes, so only managed a few short dozes along the way. Luckily the plane wasn’t too full, so I managed to get a row all to myself – a lot more comfortable than being squished up between other people – so it wasn’t as tiring as it might have been.
Arrived in Brisbane at 8 am (local time), and after a few false starts finally managed to find my way to the railway station (how was I supposed to guess that you have to go *upstairs* to find the railway lines?!?), and caught the airtrain into the city. Luckily, the Palace Backpackers, where I was staying, was just across the road from the station, because there was no way I could have carried my bag of books any further – as it was it almost broke my back! servalan was waiting in reception – she’d come up from Sydney on the overnight train, and had arrived just a few minutes before me. Our room wasn’t ready yet, so we left our bags in the luggage room and headed out to find some breakfast (my third for the day, having had something to eat at Christchurch airport and on the plane, but considering I’d already been up for about 8 hours, it was feeling more like dinnertime). After some exploring, we found an outdoor cafe in the Queen Street Mall, and I released Goshawk Squadron by Derek Robinson on a bench nearby, so that we could watch it while we ate. Instant success! Almost straight away a woman sat down on the bench, picked up the book, and started reading. She seemed to be enjoying the book, because she read for about half an hour before getting up and leaving, taking the book with her.
Back to the Palace, where we managed to completely confuse the people on the front desk about how many of us needed to check in (I had emailed them cancelling TopKat’s reservation, but we got the impression that their reservation system is not entirely reliable), and finally got allocated a room on the fourth floor. Then came our introduction to the lift. The backpackers is in a lovely old late 19th-century building in the style everyone associates with Australia, and used to be a home run by the Salvation Army. The lift seems to be of the same vintage as the building, and is one of those ones in a visible cage, where you have to manually open the (very heavy) doors to get in and out. We came to know its idiosyncracies over the next few days: it would start with a lurch of speed, then suddenly slow to a crawl halfway to the first floor; it always stopped at the first floor, no matter which buttons you pressed; and if you didn’t open the door straight away at the floor you wanted, it would head back down to the ground floor again.
We unpacked (which for me mainly meant unloading piles of books – only about 2kg of the 19.3 was clothes (my theory was that if I needed more clothes I could buy them over there)) and then headed out to properly explore the city.
We crossed the river on one of the many little ferries that zip back and forth across it all day (releasing Don’t Stand Too Close to a Naked Man by Tim Allen and More Travels in a Donkey Trap by Daisy Baker on board), to visit the South Bank, home of the Cultural Centre (theatres, art gallery and museum), riverside walks, and an artificial beach (part of which was closed for cleaning!)
We released a couple of books on the South Bank:
The Fisher King by Leonore Fleischer
Fireweed by Jill Paton Walsh
then decided to catch another ferry, this time one of the catamarans that travel up and down the river from one side of the city to the other. It was lovely and warm by my standards (though the locals were all bundled up in coats and scarves, shivering at the just-below-20-degree winter weather), so we sat out on deck for most of the trip, until evening fell and the wind started to get a bit cold. It was a great way to get an overview of the city.
On the way back to the Palace, we came across a huge Morton Bay fig tree on a busy intersection. Its complex root system offered hundreds of little nooks and crannies just perfect for hiding a book in, so I released Song of Norway by Monica Howard in one of them.
Back at the Palace, we discovered signs of Bookcrossers: we’d missed lyttletonwitch, but she’d left a book outside our door, Skyring was downstairs using the internet facilities, and there were suddenly Bookcrossing labels sprouting on many of the books in the book exchange shelf (I dropped off The Way to Dusty Death by Alistair MacLean). An early night beckoned, but we quickly hit a snag when we discovered that we couldn’t close the window in our room – they’d been painting, and had obviously managed to paint it open, so that neither our nor Skyring’s efforts could get it closed. It was just cool enough now that night had fallen that we didn’t really want to leave it open all night, so we went down to the front desk to ask them to fix it. They failed too, so decided to move us into another room. Skyring kindly helped us repack all our books and carry them across the hall to our new room, another 3-bed, where we observed signs of habitation. As I unpacked my 90-odd books again, we joked that our new roommate would get a shock when she came in and found books piled everywhere. However, as we got undressed for bed, the door opened, and we discovered that our new roomie was in fact a he. He turned out to be a Brazilian (with a confusingly German accent) named Heimie (or possibly Heinie – we never did establish his name properly). He combed his hair, sprayed himself liberally with deodorant, and headed out for a night on the town (which later turned out to be a regular nightly ritual), while we lay giggling, thinking of what our fellow Bookcrossers would say when they heard we were sharing our room with a “Brazilian Hunk”.