The Big Smoke

I find a tiny write up about an exhibition at the QUT. Wood: Art Design Architecture. In our price range too – free. All we have to do is find the location.

Brisbane River
The QUT end of town, note bridges and gardens

What’s different in Brisbane city? So long ago 1977-78 I worked on Eagle Street, adjacent the river, but back then I had no idea about the surroundings. Even though I know back then I used to alternate which train station to alight, and walked various roads to the office, all those years which have passed, all those different cities in which I have lived make me more aware to take a good look around.

From Kari Gislason’s The Promise of Iceland…the ‘left bank’ of Brisbane, and it was actually rather lovely. The Story Bridge was lit up on our right, right, and the sky rises of the city stood close to heater on the other side. It was warm and hazy, as it always was in this town, even in winter. Only later would we really appreciate gaining warmth would be. I enjoy the turn of phrase about the sky rises, and take on board the description of this city, refreshingly brazen in the sun.

Still more – Brisbane is all about liquid aroma- the heady comforts of the Pacific…I welcomed the heavy fragrances of the coming summer…I asked if we could stop by the river and take in the air…recall just how enveloping the atmosphere was. It picked you up ad carried you away with the pollen. There is no doubting Gislason captures the aroma, would we pay as much attention to the details?

Brisbane: Our first impressions included – crowded, traffic, lights on intersections and more expensive petrol. The latter we put down to a new Cosco supermarket and garage close-ish to Bribie with some extreme cost cutting. Locals might have reason to be nearby and can fill up, or take advantage of reasonable prices on Bribie Island Road – the one road from the Bruce Highway to the Island.

Back to Brisbane: They are opinionated, especially about Rugby League and the State of Origin tests.

Wood exhbits QUT
Lavish works in wood, worth the city trip

Finding QUT confirms my thoughts that no matter where they are universities have a particular insular ambience. There are always people milling about with purpose, non-threatening, personal space intact, totally engrossed in their own tasks. Universities always have interesting books shops and cheap cafes.

I see Bay of Fires in the QUT bookshop, with a label ‘brilliant Australian Debut” – takes me back to our Tassie adventure.thXA0LMQHQ

But a challenge to being a visitor on a university campus is to find a particular building, thank heavens for signs to point out the directions to our target exhibition.

The exhibition title was about art and architecture, very apt as some pieced are whole buildings, even an entire concert hall. The Tree of Knowledge (featured image) which is a memorial to the beginnings of the Australian Labour movement, in a place called Barcaldine. Apparently this is also the site of a shearers strike, the original tree was poisoned so they build an Architectural tree. These pieces are wonderfully detailed, thinnest plywood cut into lace, great recycling efforts to minimalize wastage.

Outside the surrounding botanical gardens have random deck chairs under giant fig tree.



Girls Night Out

My elder sister has already created a strong support network after only a short time on Bribie Island. TOBIs – Territorians on Bribie Island, being one group with obvious common background. Seems those who used to live in the Northern Territory quite like the low-key lifestyle and capped population to be had on Bribie Island.

Another group is known ironically as “the Young Chicks” – a group of women from a certain age who meet monthly for dinner. Apparently my big sister was the instigator, originating the group with emails to inform where and when to gather, she usually books.

To pad out that selected lifestyle is WIRE – another woman’s group. This group is more sports orientated; Golfers, tennis players, swimmers who gather to discuss issues relating to local council, politics (main focus being a recent huge increase in rates, particularly for canal-side houses) travel destinations, small business and grand children’s activities. These women share problems and strategies.

During several different visits and our housesitting members of these networks certainly took pains to be inclusive and probably kept an eye on the home-minders.

Returning home after a lovely evening I encountered another infestation, our biggest; a mouse pitter-patting down the hall. Rod is keen to blame all of these visitors on my sister’s garden mulching – composting system.

Finally we have success on the beach weather front. Walking the dog on a picturesque morning with early sunbeams and less wind, but eventually even this minor resistance makes us turn around. The terns on the beach have a head-bobbing mannerism that makes them look like little old ladies or kids with a funny little dance. Sea gulls wash on the surf edge.

Long established rule of swimming come to mind. Never swim alone, in the early morning, in the presence of bait fish, or in clouded water. I try not to shift into panic mode too quickly. At least I couldn’t see any bait fish.

They do have a winter

Yes it does rain, winter (relatively speaking) is part of the Queensland experience. Best part of the morning spent exploring the foreshore in Bongaree. This location named after the aboriginal who travelled with Matthew Flinders while he mapped the area. Names aside, while the sun shone we did plan to go to the beach but by the time we got home clouds were gathering and it was much too cool. Some good, some bad – non beach day. Our plans included going to Mooloolba but a minor medical emergency meant sampling the excellent support services on the Bribie Island.

Bongaree Jetty
The Bongaree Jetty, many a pleasant afternoon spent here

We are enjoying – as part of house sitting- the joys of a fully equipped gourmet kitchen. Instant heat under high-tech stove top hot plates, homemade yoghurt, obscure products, seasonings, garnishes and gourmet, organic or even freshly gathered, locally sourced food. The surrounds provide us with papaya, passionfruit, mint, herbs, rouquette and spinage. So I can be creative. Results include a mandarin slice and green papaya salad.

Another grey day and we drive north to Mooloolaba, apparently holidaying. What used to be little more than one bakery, plank footpaths and a caravan park, largely surrounded by swampland is now an up-market, bustling café strip. More crowded, more resort towers than we are used to, this is a bonsai Gold Coast. Still some shabby areas though, the Aquarium centre, or down on the spit where the fishery/ seafood area. The adjacent foreshore has a sheltered swimming area but the chilly air puts us off.untitled (320)

Being deep in Maroon territory when the State of Origin Rugby happens is a new experience. Many in the neighbourhood deck out houses, buses, offices in their team’s colours. Queensland having won eight years on the trot are very popular. They are definitely walking the walk of winners. The whole state rivalry is much less noticeable south of the border, or perhaps we just live in the wrong area.

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While Queensland has adopted the Cane toad as their emblem, and with no love lost those from south of the border are aligned to cockroaches, we have our own invasions to deal with: tiny ants along the hand basins in the guest’s bathroom and perhaps kindred NSW cockroaches. House sitting does have its down side.

Cane toad
Great invader, taking over so much.

When we eventually explore the coast Cotton Tree and Maroochy Surf club do not live up to the hype. Much of the foreshore is being rebuilt and heavily dressed in construction site garb.

A garbage truck stalks us northwards. My memories of a lovely family lunch in the Surf club on a previous business are destroyed by insistent jack-hammering.

Much of the façade is the ‘same-same’ as all along the coast. Why do people come here? Scratch just below the surface, behind the shops, sparkling businesses, and gleaming towers are still garages, back alleys and waste areas.

Much changed Mooloolaba foreshore

A favourite up away from the coastal strip is the Kunrana Organic Supermarket – Brownies worth the drive. (featured image) They have bulk bins and paper bags for customers to fill, mark the product code and you are charged accordingly. The range is enormous, everything squeaky-clean and good for you. Now the complex has been extended to include café, garden centre and even an organic butcher. I notice a sign indicating they now sell, “Grass fed Lamb”, and wonder; is there another sort? Do they eat something else?

We are frequently asked, ‘how long we’re staying or what are we doing here?’ Which leads us to feel we are being judges as clearly not locals! As far as I can see the only evidence to support this assumption is that we are clothed in shorts and T shirts, obviously damming evidence, when others around us are in more wintery outfits. When we get a chance to respond to this curiosity any mention of house-sitting is greeted with platitudes.

No beach day — again

We drive again, this time to explore along the Bruce Highway to the south. Around parts of the Moreton Bay Drive. Scarborough and Redcliffe add to our waterfall and pool chasing.

From Peter Carey’s Jack Maggs, …Three years of that time I had the misfortune to be in a hell called Morton Bay…

Moreton Bay
Doesn’t look that bad?

Things aren’t as bad as Carey implies, even if the demographics indicate that some ethic groups; Samoans and Tongan especially, not that this evident on our drive tour. Except for an insignia to mixed cultures and a plaque to the first Samoan/Tonga meeting house outside these countries. We do however notice some very worse-for-wear bayside cheap housing which looks like state housing. This whole area was probably a crowded sea-side destination that is now a tad shabby.

Mangrove edged beaches on the edge of Morton Bay which has greyish and choppy water. Tide is high with occasional glimpses of minimal yellow sand. Further out onto the Cape the coast looks more scenic. Scarborough is definitely out of the wind, but rain still threatens. The Dugong symbol indicates Morton Bay Drive, or North Morton Drive. untitled (315)We pass marinas on one side, seafood outlets and a tiny caravan village with pastel cottages, trimmed white. They’re so cute and doll-like. Expensive multi-story houses next to run down fibro shacks. A few old Queenslanders, tastefully restored. Then resort towers reminiscent of Waikiki, tacky in places.

From here the Ferry departs to the Bay Islands – Morton and Stradbroke. We promise to do that one day. No doubt the red cliffs are more statuesque out to sea.

Another no beach day! It has now been five days since we felt a beach swim was possible. We soak up the sun’s warmth away from ridge tops, but know the southerly wind will be worse on the beach. To counter this lack of swimming we spend time looking at real estate, fascinated by the range of goods and chattels we can get in price ranges far more reasonable than Sydney. Media rooms dominate.

I explore the fire trails behind the Bribie Island Arts Centre, watched by Kangaroos that stare down in response to my whistling.

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Day Trip to Eumundi Markets

Any trips off Bribie Island mean the initial 19km to the Bruce Highway; tedious process of several sets of traffic lights and more changes of speed limit than should occupy such a short stretch of roadways.untitled (309)

Once on ‘the Bruce’, we are still becoming accustomed to the scenery, pine plantations, swampy paper-bark tree stretches, and long open highway with adjacent strawberry farms (yet to harvest). We have decided that Queensland drivers are the worst encountered in our travels, most noticeable is their ignoring major road work speed restrictions. 4 Wheel drive enthusiast lumber though the unsealed side roads which appear to be worn and puddled as a result.

Caloundra features much more high-rise apartments and busy city streetscapes – with small businesses and hardware shops. untitled (310)

We head to Noosa beach which is perfect. I make the mistake of asking about my husband’s memories of the area when the parking area at the Noosa River mouth was a caravan park where a council worker with cigarette hanging from his bottom lip would give the boys in their panel van a ticket for camping overnight costing $1. My queries were treated with typical up-market Noosa sourness, ‘there has always been a council car-park here!’ I am told.

Featured image is Noosa street art.

Later I find a wonderful evocative poem Only in Places Like This by Cindy Keong–

…Only a scatter of stores to tempt the ladies who

are more at home on Noosa streets, with their

gold mesh and white linen. Here some things

never change: the caravan park that waits patiently

for its regular families to set up camp,…

Thought the “gold mesh and white linen” image was apt.

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Hastings Street with its retail reputation, up there with Lygon St, Carlton or Toorak Road, South Yarra, and apparently commercial rents are the most costly in Australia. I wonder why I don’t find it at all interesting and other things catch my attention. Like several decades of Miles Franklin Award winning books in a window. My every ice-cream laden window shopping move is watched by snobby managers. Finally I stumble on a food court where I thought there was nothing affordable.

Construction is underway for the Noosa Food and Wine Festival, something we searched prior to leaving Sydney finding that tickets were way too expensive. Seriously overpriced dinners and luncheons ranged from $108 to $250 each. Access to the fair was $40 with what looks like additional $9 to purchase samples from food stalls. Even that was beyond our budget.

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Another unexpected cost was parking at Eumundi Markets, all sorts of restrictions were in place for market days, or you could park in the Primary school for $5. Don’t blame this small town for attempting to make a bit of profit from tourism.

Mother’s Day

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We decided to book a table at Bribie Island R.S.L. which with hindsight was a mistake as the club was very busy. Our meals took over two hours to arrive. We spend a little time showing Ben and Natasha some of the sights including some of the canal frontage mansions, and a neat as a pin new house we liked.

By mid-May we are really enjoying the warm evenings and relaxing into Bribie Island lifestyle.

Bribie Island Queensland
Jocco’s pals Duchies and Rose, at the dog beach.

Impact of dog inheritance:

  • A routine that involves a walk before breakfast
  • Repeated activities, you throw, I fetch, you throw, I fetch, you throw
  • Waste removal duties – carry it until a receptacle can be reached
  • Social awareness, other dogs (on lease or off) people walking them
  • A means to get people active
  • Walk on the beach rather than an afternoon nap
  • Discussion about variety – Jocco’s mix of Border Collie, Staffy and Kelpie always draws a comment. We meet a neighbour with a wire coated Vizula and are told to get photos.
  • Show off with party tricks, mostly of the fetch variety
  • Shopping now includes searching for dog bones.
  • Where are the doggie treats kept?
  • There is no such thing as being solitary as everyone is going to say hello, ask what breed, or trade walking notes.
  • Learning his foibles; Jocco doesn’t like getting his feet wet on damp grass, but is happy to trundle alone the surf edge, especially if there is a need to wash sand of any throw toys.
  • Apparently Jocco doesn’t like being washed. This much is evident when after researching the tides we walk him along Pumicestone Passage and he quickly sinks in the mud. Although he is more than happy with this skin treatment we feel bad about putting him into our host’s car in that condition. So attempts to remove the mud are treated with a great deal of distain. But when we want to return Jocco to black and white instead of black and grey, the warm water and doggy shampoo treatment is much easier to manage. Do dogs really need to be washed?untitled (307)

Control burns are being conducted near Glasshouse Mountains, making for smoky, spectacular extended dusks. We stumble upon a local tourist attraction – The soldier crabs of Pumicestone passage. Rod recalls, “the first time I saw them I was scared, had nightmares, never saw anything like it before.”

The mud flats, sand banks appear to be moving as there are so many of the tiny creatures, they crackle and creek as they scurry away. A group of tourists are pleased, “we’ve come all the way from Victoria to see this phenomena.” After taking Kenny down to Beachmere we begin to find the low tide infestation quite commonplace.


Bridges 11

untitled (297)Burdekin River near Ayr at Homehill. Water, Ayr and Home, I am sure poets would do something with that offering. This is a covered bridge like used to be in Nabiac. Being that this is the dry season we have seen more sand than water in many of the other rivers, but this one is major and full.

Over Johnstone River coming into Cairns. Joseph Mcavoy Bridge. I finally get a pen and paper to preserve the name. Some indications that he may have been a keeper of the bridge from sugar cane growing areas in late 1800s. But this could just be someone with the same name. Other noteworthy items include crocodile sightings upstream and that major road works are happening. No surprise on the croc thing, it’s close to the coast, wide and with mangrove banks.untitled (300)

Same, same over Mulgrave River, also coming into Cairns, near Gordonvale. This time named for a Desmond Tranamore. This time I am able to google that he was a police officer, killed in the line of duty in 1964, at the cost of $48 million this girder bridge replaced the low-set bridge, at an increase height of some 5m. Understandably many of these bridges used to flood in the wet season, people in the early 1970s used to say, ‘if someone spits upstream the Bruce Highway floods’, things have improved since I lived in Brisbane with my first husband.

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Lucky not in flood for us.

Over the Barron River multiple bridges. We crossed this river in Kurunda, Mareeba and Malanda. Each bridge equally as impressive with height between water and roadway. I think they have floods up here. We were both on the Captain Cook highway and on the way into Freshwater for these crossings.

Over the Annan River Bridge and causeway – Near Keatings lagoon. Kakadu like wetlands. Labeled with a “Big Annan Bridge” sign, but is really an old ‘pick a plank’ wooded construction with roadway covering. The car jerks across, with us wondering what would happen if the tyres get caught in a gap? The causeway has a chasm at the top of some falls, and is made of sections of concrete. We are really heading in the beyond.

Before Palmer River Roadhouse North of the Bverstown Range and lookout. Workmen and stock the only other moving things.

FAr north queensland
Called a development road , heading towards Cooktown on the inland sealed road.

Rollo Gallop Bridge was it a gully or waterway? Rivers in this area flow into the Gulf of Carpentaria.

Palmer River. While we make an effort to get a view of the bridge and river we are chased by the Road House owner who is wondering what us city drongos are up to wandering about with backpacks. “yar not going bush walkin, are yars?’

The river has steep sides with minimal water, but flood flotsam is in the trees. WA registered caravan waits while we cross (The bridge is only single lane.) In the roadhouse is a museum filled with tales of people and how they traversed the river and travelled in past decades.

Near palmer River road house
Even this river can flood.