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Brisbane is just one flight away, it’s really warm and David Loughrey went there. This is what it was like.
At the footy the Australians were screaming; they were shrieking with joy.
Their unmitigated exuberance reverberated through the cavernous concrete hallways and bounced hither and yon off the maroon and gold seats of Suncorp Stadium, eventually settling on a celebrating Wallabies team hugging and high-fiving.
The Brisbane game had begun like this: Wallabies halfback Will Genia smelled blood as the All Blacks lobbed the ball wide from an attacking scrum.
The ball was swung to the right, then back to the left, when Genia rushed up and pounced on a slightly shocked-looking Lima Sopoaga, who rushed a clumsy pass into thin air where it was snapped up by Aussie speedster Reece Hodge.
Hodge took the intercept and for a moment time stood still.
You could see one, two, three All Blacks turn to give chase, you could sense Hodge’s speed and leg drive, you could measure in your mind the space between the players, the distance Hodge had to travel, and you knew instantly it was all over.
And so it was.
Time began again, the winger hit full stride and within seconds he was at the other end of the park dotting the ball down over the try line.
Oh, but how they screamed.
Early in the morning, moments after the sun began to glint off mirror-glass skyscrapers that reflected the shimmering blue above, stallholders began setting up at the Riverside Markets in the city’s botanic gardens.
How warm it was.
For a Dunedin traveller in October escaping an erratic, turbulent spring, the warmth greets you as you step off the aeroplane, it wraps itself around you like blanket of contentment and nuzzles playfully against you as you go gently about your business.
Early in the morning at the botanic gardens it greets you, and wafts the intoxicating perfumes of exotic flora your way.
Down a pathway, off to the right, a red-faced dusky moorhen stilt-walks from a busy pond and wobbles over, unafraid of humans.
"Pukeko", a little boy cries, giving away his country of origin.
The wildlife is abundant: The Australian white ibis, a large long-legged, long-beaked, remarkable but scruffy looking bird that has migrated to cities in the last 40 years, weigh down the branches of trees they have colonised.
Over here a hibiscus, over there a jacaranda, its purple fecundity carpeting the ground beneath.
And there by the pond, an enormous lizard, alert, coiled and still on the paving stones, peering towards the sun.
In the sky above crows screech and wheel and aeroplanes rumble.
From the garden walking/cycling tracks extend everywhere, following the Brisbane River as it meanders through the compact city of 2.3 million, its citizens walking and cycling carefully around a blue-tongued lizard that has foolishly marched to the middle of the pathway.
Back at Suncorp Stadium, the All Blacks were lobbing wayward lineout throws, kept kicking possession away and looked scratchy and out of sorts.
Despite that, they managed to get the Wallabies on the back foot, and Waisake Naholo made the most of an overlap on the right edge, diving over the line for his team’s first points.
A long-range penalty from Sopoaga in the 25th minute put New Zealand ahead 10-7 and things appeared back on track.
The Kiwis in the crowd sighed a little, relieved that the scheme of things was swinging back to normal, but still with a persistent taste of apprehension about how this would all end.
Meanwhile, at the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art, Ugo Rondinone’s 64-minute video cigarettesandwich flickers in a dark space, a video loop of a sequence from a Rainer Werner Fassbinder film Gotter der Pest, depicting an actor walking beside a brick wall.
On and on walks the moustachioed man, every now and then jerking slightly as the video loops and resets, and in the background the hour-long Sleepy Song by English band the Tindersticks ambles by.
"The monotonous, repetitive imagery and wistful, meandering character of the music is intended to lull the viewer into an all-encompassing melancholy," the information board explains.
It is a piece of perfect weirdness for the true explorer of artistic expression, but there are many other strange and wonderful sights at the GOMA, nestled by the river close to the Queensland Art Gallery, the museum and state library.
Back at Suncorp Stadium, Marika Koroibete streaks over to put Australia back in the lead.
Didn’t he used to play rugby league?
The Wallabies cling on to that lead, and the All Blacks sum up their game by knocking the ball on after the siren as they attack the opposition line, leaving the score 23-18, and the Aussies in the crowd squealing with delight, hugging and whooping at our failure.
Oh, the shame.
On the walk from the stadium to the hotel, late in the evening, the streets pump and hum with the diversity of humanity that gives colour and texture to big cities.
A friendly policewoman offers excellent directions to lost foreigners.
Public art grows in parks and towers outside buildings, hangs in trees and glows neon in the dark.
And the warmth clings to you and helps you waft through the fragrance of the evening.
- David Loughrey was hosted by Brisbane Marketing
If you go
Suncorp Stadium is an experience worth having. On February 9 and 10, 300 stars from all the Australian and New Zealand Super Rugby sides, as well as Pacific heavyweights Fiji and Samoa, Japan’s Panasonic Wild Knights and French powerhouse Pau will take the field in the Brisbane Rugby 10s. Should be rugbytastic.
• Go abseiling off the Kangaroo Point cliffs with Riverside. You have to be slightly brave, but if you’re not, try a ride on one of the company’s Segways. They’re fun. Also, Riverside’s set-up is just across the river from the city, and you can get there on a free ferry.
• Take a brewery tour. Brisbane, like Dunedin, is all about craft beers nowadays. The Hop on Brewery Tour spins you around a few small breweries, and fills you in on some excellent Brisbane stories. Also, you get to drink plenty of beer if you set your mind to it.
• Climb the Story Bridge. The Story Bridge Adventure Climb takes you 80m up to the top of the bridge’s superstructure, where the view is excellent on a clear day.
• Also, take ferries everywhere — they’re brilliant.
The Eat Street Markets are not too far from the city centre. They are housed in a mass of brightly coloured shipping containers, and are packed — just packed — with people, food and music.
How to get there
Fly direct from Dunedin, a much, much better and quicker experience than travelling via Christchurch or Auckland. It’s our only international flight. Go on. Use it.
Good comebacks for Brisbane people who mention our weather pejoratively.
Dunedin has less than 800mm of rain a year, compared with Brisbane’s more than 1000mm. Drop that into conversations with locals regularly.