Where women glow and men plunder


Where: Burleigh Heads, Queensland, Australia

This flag means that there are approximately 35 things in the water that can kill or maim you...or maybe I am making that up.

Plate of food: The morning we arrived we plunked ourselves down for a snack which swiftly turned into full-blown brunch when I saw the following menu item: Zucchini and Sweetcorn pancakes with bacon, asparagus and Hollandaise sauce.

There are certain foods that cause me to stop in my tracks and look no further on a menu. Bacon, asparagus and Hollandaise sauce are all menu-stoppers (so is pork belly…or rhubarb…or truffles…or salt & pepper squid – you get the idea). It was a culinary holy trinity.

The pancakes were golden and savoury, stacked high with slices of back bacon between them. The asparagus spears were balanced on top, perfectly cooked and vibrant green. The sauce was velvety and rich. I ate in complete rapture, not even disturbed by my son pouring salt on his blackberries. You’re 2! Throw caution and your blood pressure to the wind, my boy!

To elevate this meal to yet another level, I drank 2 large flat whites, which is the Antipodean way of saying milky coffees. Happiness on a plate. Happiness in a cup. This meal made me smile. And gain 3 lbs, but who cares?

The best: My, but this country has some fine beaches! It’s no surprise that an area known as Surfer’s Paradise, Gold Coast, Sunshine State, etc is going to have stunning beaches, but WOW! We stayed a few steps away from a beach that was clean, pristine, and so beautiful.

The water varied from bright blue to bottle green and formed perfect white waves that curled and crashed as if offering a tutorial to all the world’s waves on how to be outstanding. The sand was white and fine; it squeaked as you shuffled your feet. It was dotted with smooth, dark, round pebbles and shells that ranged from dusky pink to deep purple. The hunky skilled lifesavers jogged in groups along the beach while I tried to distance myself from my mania: my daughter obsessively collecting every blessed shell on the beach and my son shouting at the waves “IT”S A BIG ONE”. Huh? What kids?

In one direction was a headland that loomed over a collection of cafes that could fulfill my need for flat whites/good food. In the other direction was the pretty skyline of downtown Brisbane which I imagined as a ghost town because surely no one works when there is a beach nearby like this one.

Brisbane beckons in the distance, but I'm not going anywhere!

For all this loveliness, it must be said that it is my belief that you will die if you swim in Australian waters (please refer to sharks, jellyfish, poisonous fish, sting rays, rip currents, and – for fresh water – crocodiles). My first trip to this fine country involved me pouring over a book that outlined all of the deadly things in the water and on land in Australia (bad idea to let me loose in that bookstore). I have decided that you can only truly be free from harm if you are in the air. So, I don’t swim. But I LOVE the beaches!

Story that needs to be told: Sometimes crappy things happen when you travel.

Someone came into our holiday apartment while we were asleep and stole our things. I KNOW! Take a moment.

It was the 4th night of our stay. Matt had gone to bed while I stayed up late checking emails and critical celebrity gossip. At some point I felt uneasy and locked the patio door which led out to the communal garden area of the apartment complex. The kids had slept from 2:30 p.m due to sheer exhaustion and were still asleep. I brushed my teeth and settled into bed at 12:08 a.m (gotta love digital clocks burning the exact time on your memory).

At 12:20 I was just drifting gently towards sleep when I heard the patio door open. I lay perfectly still and listened intently. All I could think was that it was IMPOSSIBLE that the door opened because I had locked it. Then I heard the pile of coins we had left on the kitchen counter clinking together. Everything came rushing together into one pinpoint of panic.

I shook Matt hard. Twice. Then I whispered, “There’s someone in here” which is something you only want to hear while watching a horror film.

Matt launched out of bed and went down the passageway where he saw someone at the door holding our laptop and our backpack. His still-asleep brain struggled to make sense of the scene. The guy was so dumb/drugged up/hearing impaired that Matt walked right up to him and grabbed his arm. The intruder turned and screamed in such an animalistic and frightened way that, for a brief moment as I sat in bed with my heart in my throat, I thought that maybe it could be just a curious Australian marsupial who…managed…to open…a door. Like I said, it was a BRIEF moment.

Then I found myself propelled into the passageway by fear and I screamed because it seemed like a good way to make an entrance. Poor Matt thought that I was in danger behind him so he turned and the guy ran off, jumped the fence, and was gone.

That pinpoint of panic then exploded and crashed around, barreling through my veins and around the room. Not pretty.

Luckily the goon had dropped our laptop and backpack at the door as he fled, but we quickly took note of the other things missing: Matt’s wallet, a lot of a loose cash, and my watch. We also took note of things that he had strangely left behind: an iPad sitting on the couch, Matt’s watch, Matt’s phone. Did I mention that he was dumb?

The next few hours were a blur of phone calls, police reports, cancelled credit cards, cups of tea and more tears.

Matt found my watch outside on the grass. Thank you for sparkling in the moonlight. Thank you for having the eyesight of a fighter pilot.

After processing all of this over many days I have this to say:

  • I hate that little punk –  he was all of 16, Matt reckons – for being so brazen, for lacking in morals, for feeling so entitled, for scaring the crap out of us, for violating our space, for shattering our bubble of security, for walking right past my sweet babies’ little shoes by the door – heartless git.
  • It is cruelly ironic that we live in Rio de Janeiro where this kind of stuff is, dare I say, commonplace, but it happened to us while on vacation in suburban Australia.
  • We were complacent. We left all that stuff out on display on the countertop. Lesson learnt, but I still maintain that we were in a pretty low-risk area.
  • I ache with regret that when I locked the door the latch did not catch because the patio door was slightly misaligned on its tracks. Ah, I love the “What if” game…
  • We are so very grateful that he only got away with cards and cash. It’s a huge hassle, especially when there were cards from 4 different countries in the wallet, prompting the police officer to ask Matt if his name was Jason Bourne, but it is all replaceable. I shiver when I think that he was mere steps from our room, from our kidlets’ room. So grateful that he was dumb rather than aggressive.
  • This does not make me fearful of travel or of being in other countries. It makes me fearful of people. That’s a bit of a stinker because I know some people who are incredibly lovely, but it makes me wonder about what is happening in society. And, man, that is a slippery slope if you let yourself ponder the state of humanity. Give me 10 minutes and I am rashly deciding to homeschool, live in a bunker, trust no one, x-ray the mail, and have a royal taster suss out my food first. Wowzer.
  • Banks need to stop asking for the card number when you report a card stolen. Because I don’t know the card number. Because my card was stolen. Shall we go round one more time?
  • Doofus was wearing a hoody. I mean, can we get any more cliché? Is there not a young delinquent out there who dons something more unique or imaginative? Seriously, people, just because you are a deadbeat doesn’t mean fashion has to go out the window.
  • I feel no shame in hoping that this guy had to change his shorts when he got home. That kind of scream can set off a rapid chain of events that no sphincter can keep up with, y’know?

All this to say that we had a terrible fright, but we are all fine and feeling thankful more than anything else. I have nothing against Australians in general, except for the mandatory hatred of the Wallabies rugby team based on my husband’s rugby affiliation.

I think the sad truth is that this kind of thing can happen anywhere. So be vigilant, be careful, but keep traveling, keep looking people in the eye, keep enjoying the adventure. Just don’t wear a hoody, okay?

“Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and enjoy the journey.” Barbara Hoffman

Who needs credit cards when this is out there?

7 responses »

  1. Wow. I’m so sorry this happened to you. I agree that these things can happen anywhere, sorry it had to be on vacation. I hope you enjoyed the rest of your trip as much as possible.

  2. Yikes! i’m sorry for laughing but i do love the way you tell a story, even one as horrible as someone breaking into your hotel room! I am really sad for you that it happened while you were there, but thank goodness you were aware enough to deal with the situation and that further plunder was not taken/further harm not done. it’s such a shame that there are such losers all over this world. Glad you have some wonderful memories of yummy food and glorious beaches and all sorts of other treats to restore your faith in the world 🙂 x

    • Thanks, Corinna! You have to be able to laugh, right? We do have many happy memories from our trip. This was a scary, but luckily small, blip in our holiday. xx

  3. I am so sorry this happened to you guys. I can’t even imagine (don’t want to imagine) a stranger in a room with you, Matt and dear Freya and Henry.

    This gave us chills and had us checking the doors twice last night.

    • Thank you, J! Trust me, it is not worth trying to imagine… I am still very jumpy at noises during the night – Freya appearing at my bedside asking for a glass of water nearly makes my heart stop now! The fact that Matt is away at the moment means everything gets obsessively locked at, oh say, 4:30 in the afternoon 🙂

  4. Pingback: Taking the bronze | A Year of Travel

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