In the run-up to, and during, the Football World Cup in 2010, we saw a lot of Portugal international Cristiano Ronaldo extolling the virtues of Castrol Edge and its 'liquid engineering'. He described how football takes him to 'menee playsis: hot playsis; cold playsis; eggshilarating playsis'. My friend and I have been unable to pronounce the word 'places' properly ever since, and we've been travelling around a lot lately.
We took the Manchester chapter to hot and cold places. It was coldest in Girraween National Park in Queensland's Granite Belt, apple and wine country.
We stayed just outside the park, but spent a day walking in it, climbing a huge granite outcrop called Castle Rock for its wide views of boulder-strewn country. There was a cold and frosty start – and stargazing at the other end of the day required many layers – but the day soon warmed up to pleasant walking temperatures.
Having been held up on the drive down by extensive post-flood road reconstruction through Cunningham's Gap, we decided to return to Brisbane via the Darling Downs region and its principal city, Toowoomba, where purple seemed to be the order of the day.
When choosing locations for visitors to explore, I have to put aside my endless love for Byron Bay; an obsession, some would say. In this instance, however, my favourite place had a lot to offer our guests: great diving opportunities; stunning beaches; a lively yet unspoilt town; highly individualistic shops and galleries; great vibe. So, off we went, via the Gold Coast, namely Main Beach and Currumbin (see Family and other animals, August 2011).
Once in Byron, we did the usual stuff for initiates: the cliff walk up to Cape Byron lighthouse from Wategos, with whale-watching, dolphin-monitoring and spot-the turtles/rays; beachcombing on Tallows; shopping, then more shopping; soaking up a few rays on Broken Head beach; gazing at the Bay; basking and wandering aimlessly in Byron's chilled atmosphere; biding in cafes and bars.
Wishing to make the most of New South Wales, we returned home via Brunswick Heads, Mooball on the Tweed Valley Way, Murwillumbah, the Springbrook Plateau and Natural Bridge. The 'Cloud Catcher' (Mt Warning) remained visible for a long time, despite worsening weather.
Our final mini-trip destination was the 'Mapleton Sunshine Coast Hinterland'. We stopped in at all the 'Ms' – Maleny, Montville and Mapleton – along the way.
My friend and I had stayed at Coolabine Ridge Eco Sanctuary before, in a small, intimate cabin. This time we had booked the Lighthouse Lodge, originally a lighthouse keeper's house from Caloundra. The building was brought up from the coast a few years ago and beautifully restored, right down to the last detail. It was a joy to be in, so we didn't go anywhere, gazing over the peaceful Obi Obi valley from the deck with beer in hand.
Early next morning, a walk around the 400-acre estate was in order.
We were supposed to make an early start for Noosa, but no one was in any hurry to leave our hideaway. So there was nowhere to park at the bottom of Hastings Street by the time we got there on a sunny Sunday lunchtime. We headed straight for the National Park. There were too many people on the coastal path, as well, so we clambered down on to Tea Tree Bay's rocky foreshore, where there were deep and curious rockpools, strange marine organisms with water pistoling skills, turquoise 'gems', arches and inlets. Hours of fun, in fact, and very pleasantly warm.