There is one good thing about an overnight flight: the view as you land is amazing. The Australian landscape stretched as far as the eye can see, with plots of land, ranging from deep green to warm brown, fitted together like a jigsaw puzzle. Sapphire rivers sparkled in the early morning sun, and speed boats left streaks of white foam on the surface as their passengers raced off towards their weekend.
It's been a long time since I last stepped off of a plane on the tarmac, and as I stepped out into the hot sun and down the stairs, I pretended to be one of the Beatles. Except without the adoring fans.
Are you familiar with the phrase, “hit the ground running”? That's what we did this morning. As soon as our group of 16 arrived in Gold Coast – that's nine students, a guide from Wing On Travel, two representatives from Hong Kong Airlines, a photographer, a videographer, and two journalists – we got on a small coach to go to Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary.
Here's the thing: Queensland is hot. Like … really hot. Well, it's not any hotter than Hong Kong at her hottest, but something about there not being a cloud in the sky (seriously; we looked) and less humidity (pleasant change, really) intensified the baking heat. It wasn't long until Min Chau Chi-man, 17, of Y.C.H. Lan Chi Pat Memorial Secondary School fashioned a hat for herself using the Sanctuary's map. Nice look, Min. Destined for the runway.
Nevertheless, faced with the opportunity to meet indigenous Australian animals chased away our weariness from operating on next to no sleep after being on a nine-hour flight. Once inside the Sanctuary, we raced off to see koalas, wallabies, red kangaroos, and feathered creatures we do not know the names of.
One section of the Sanctuary, which housed nocturnal animals, offered the most contrast. Apparently, creatures that come alive at night are either super adorable, like the small and furry squirrel glider, or menacing-looking, like the knob tailed gecko.
We wandered through the park until the students running enthusiastically towards an Australian pelican scared it into flight, but not long after we found the kangaroo petting enclosure.
Kangaroos turned out to be super lazy. Or maybe they were drowsy from the heat as well, but not one of the adults paid us any heed as we carefully stepped around them and tentatively reached out to pet them. The younger ones peered at the humans occasionally, but mostly also just flopped about looking cute. One particularly friendly emu followed us around and seemed to enjoy appearing out to nowhere and startling unaware visitors.
Despite our best efforts, the entire group was relieved when lunchtime rolled around and we could relax for a while in an air-conditioned room and tuckinto our buffet lunch. Afterwards, we took advantage of the Sanctuary's train ride to get an overview of the property, but after that, the heat really got too much for most of us and we soon found ourselves gathering one by one at the meeting point a good hour and a half ahead of the original meet-up time.
Queensland, your sun is brutal!
A quick ride and we were at Point Danger Lookout, which offers a gorgeous view of the Coral Sea. The water was such a startling shade of deep blue, and with not a cloud in the sky the crashing waves looked extra white. There is not a photo or video taken from this location that does reality any justice. Even Ann Lee On-sang, 19, of The Hong Kong Taoist Association Ching Chung Secondary School says Point Danger Lookout was her favourite part of the day despite her exhaustion.
“I've never seen anything like it,” says her friend Isaac Zhang Jinqin who attends The Hong Kong Taoist Association Ching Chung Secondary School.
A 20-minute right following Point Danger Lookout allowed us a nap before soaring high up into the sky at Skypoint Observation Deck, which affords visitors panoramic views of Gold Coast from the 78th floor. There is also a restaurant up there, for “high end dining” (har har har), but we were due for dinner elsewhere.
Now, at 9.22pm Gold Coast time, it seems most of us are ready to crash. It's been a busy day, but tomorrow will be even busying: surfing, kayaking, indoor skydiving, and glow worm hunt. Did I mention it's predicted to be 38-40°c tomorrow? Better get some sleep!