After exploring Oyster Cove's quiet community, there was nothing much to do - and I didn't fly all the way to Australia to watch television. It was time to move further away from this idyll. Girlie told me that whenever her mom would visit, she would take a leisurely walk to the nearest shopping village in Monterey Keys. Helensvale (the suburb) has four localities: Oyster Cove, River Links, Coombabah Lake and Monterey Keys.
I locked the doors behind me and tried to remember the directions given to me earlier by Girlie: "Just follow the highway. At some point, there's a detour after the bridge, to a residential area. Go straight ahead until you reach the shops." With a hint of an Australian accent, I had to be obedient. Yes, ma'am.
Helensvale Road was wide and spotless, but mostly deserted. Very few vehicles drive by so even on mid-afternoon, the place felt eerie. Were there walking dead, I'd hoped not. I wouldn't run because it was too hot to do so. Clean and intermittently breezy (there were lakes nearby), I could almost enjoy my leisurely stride. The shoulder of the road was as big as the highway, and the inner lane was lined by tall shrubs of Gumamela (Hibiscus rosa sinensis). The ecosystem in this corner of the world was so healthy, anything could grow here, I thought. Heck, even their grass bore orchid-looking flowers (see below).
Further on, I came into another lake, Saltwater Creek, an intrinsic feature of the geography of Gold Coast which is punctuated by a series of canals. It's like Venice - but spread far across the lands. I finally saw a man walking his dog. He greeted me with an ebullient, "G'day, mate!" Typical. People in Australia don't have qualms greeting strangers. Everyone I met greeted me like we're next-door buddies, an observation that rings true all over the Gold Coast.
After walking past the bridge, I took a detour, moving away from the highway; a narrow fenced-in lane that eventually lead to Lakeshore Drive (a street) in a residential village with manicured lawns and gorgeous modern homes. Like Oyster Cove, there's hardly a sign of life. No sound from these houses either. This lassitude needed to be shaken off. Sigh.
I looked at my watch and was surprised that I had been walking for almost 45 minutes already. I had a feeling that at the end of the lane was the shopping village. Then I saw a group of 9, 10 year olds on their way home from school. Since I was at the other side of the lane, I moved on without changing pace. Then, one of the kids shouted, "Hey, mister, are you lost?" Did I look lost? I didn't think so. But I was grateful for this act of hospitality. "No, I'm not. I'm on my way to the shop. This way, right?" Innocent faces nodded in unison, then they waved goodbye. Everyone in Queensland was nothing but charming and personable; a far cry from what I was expecting, based on my travels everywhere.
Five minutes later, I crossed the road and finally found Monterey Keys Shopping Village. Was it a holiday? There were 2 or 3 cars at the parking lot, and I didn't see people shopping. Indeed, at first glance, the whole shopping arcade looked deserted. But this was the Australian suburb and, as I've learned, this was business as usual.
To my surprise, the complex is an integrated commercial centre: a 24-hour fitness Jetts; a dentist, a medical clinic, an Indian restaurant, a physiotherapist, a florist, an interior designer, a bakery, a real estate office, a liquor store, a pharmacy, a hairdresser, take-away food; all these were services available at this seemingly desolate shopping village.
If I seemed culture-shocked, there was more surprise later. A pleasant one! But that's for another post.
This is the Eye in the Sky!
|Flower of tall blades of grass.|
|A field of Gumamelas along the highway.|
|Gumamelas bloom along Helensvale Drive.|
|Monterey Keys' The Peninsula with their own pontoons.|
|Saltwater Creek isn't fit for swimming. The signs say so. It teems with algae.|
|First sign of life.|
|From the highway, I had to detour here to get to Lakeshore Drive.|
|Manicured lawns at The Peninsula's Lakeshore Drive.|
|Sheetal, a fine dining Indian restaurant.|
|No one at the shops.|
|Map that follows my trail (the brown lane) from Oyster Cove to Monterey Keys.|
|Aerial view of Gold Coasts canals. That's a lot of lakes! This photo only courtesy of wikipedia's Toksave.|