29 Sept 2019

29th September 2019, Brisbane

Last night was the finale for the Brisbane festival, culminating in a flypast by the Australian Air Force, first in a jet bomber, then by a fighter jet. The latter flew in low and fast, skimming the tops of the bridges, passing over the city twice, moving in different directions.

We managed to capture this jet several times in a second and put them together into a composite picture, looking as though a flight of aircraft was passing overhead. The pressure from the engines was immense, almost crushing our chests (or so it felt to us!).

Then came the fireworks. The display was launched from several barges that had been moored in the middle of the river, and from the roofs of several of the taller skyscraper buildings around the city. By sheer fluke, our hotel was ideally positioned to take advantage of three of the barges, plus our room on the eighteenth floor gave us a spectacular view.

The show went on for half an hour, and was absolutely amazing to watch.

This morning, we woke to another cloudless day, and booked ourselves onto a river cruise. Yes, we have to keep going on boats, even in cities! Anyway, we got to see Brisbane from a different viewpoint, and having walked most of the downtown city, the river trip seemed to put it all into perspective for us. 

So much of the city is focussed on the river, and while much of the industry has moved down river to the mouth of the Brisbane at Moreton Bay, myriad apartment blocks have sprung up on the once industrial land and old warehouses converted into luxury homes. Apparently these waterfront apartments sell in the millions of Australian dollars, demonstrating the wealth of the city.

We even managed to find the Customs House that we had missed when we were exploring on foot, hailing from the days when the riverbank was lined with wharves and sailing ships, transporting wool, coal and other cargoes around the country and the world.

After the river trip, we walked back across the footbridge from the South Bank through the business district and had some lunch overlooking the passers-by, listening to the street performers. Then it was back up the hill to the bus station for our Greyhound bus home. All in all, it has been a very enjoyable weekend!

28 Sept 2019

28/9/2019: City Life in Brisbane

After 11 months in the middle of nowhere much of the time we're back in a big city, surrounded by skyscrapers, cafes and bars, heritage buildings and a vibrant atmosphere. Yes we're in Queensland's first city and one of Australia's top three after Sydney and Melbourne. 2.5 million people live in booming Brizzy, centred around the Brisbane River which winds inland from Moreton Bay. Good old Captain Cook sailed by and named the bay back in 1770 but the river itself wasn't discovered until 1823 when it was named after the then Governor of New South Wales. A number of indigenous tribes inhabited the area but they lost their lands to the European invasion.

In fact the first settlement was actually a penal settlement for Sydney's more recalcitrant convicts, the prisoners labouring in the heat with inadequate water supplies and hostility from the displaced local Aboriginal population, to establish the colony. The penal colony was abandoned in 1839 and the area thrown open to free settlers in 1842. By the time Brisbane separated from NSW in 1859, 6,000 people lived here and huge wealth flowed in from gold-mining enterprises and grandiose buildings were erected, many of which remain today.

The impressive City Hall, built out of local sandstone and marble imported from Belgium, and completed in 1930, cost nearly one million (Australian) pounds. Built on swampland, the location came back to bite the city as the foundations sank into the ground over a period of 70 years.

Major renovations took place early in the 21st century to successfully stabilise the building. The clock tower, 93 metres high, was the tallest building in the area until the mid 1960s but the high risers now completely dominate it and other Victorian era buildings. In its day the clock could be heard many kilometres away and people from the suburbs apparently used to pull out their binoculars to check the time! The view from the clock tour over the central business district was fabulous.

There are a surprising number of heritage buildings in the downtown area, the old central station, post office, Governor's House, Treasury Building and Parliament building to name a few. While they are now valued and preserved, an equal number have been demolished to make way for the skyscrapers that line the riverbank.

As with many cities you end up walking miles and miles, and that's certainly been the case for us. This morning we followed the Heritage Trail that took us from the city to the Botanical gardens and then across the river to the Southbank, a beautiful strip of green parklands lining the river and home to concert and theatre venues, museums and libraries, and even Brizzy's equivalent to the London Eye. In fact the whole area is reminiscent of London's south bank.

Enjoying a glass of wine with lunch overlooking the river on the south bank was a nice contrast to our lunch venue from yesterday ... a first floor view from a very popular 24-hour cafe/bistro of one the main city streets where street artists were performing for our entertainment.

So far we've been really enjoying our time here, from the trip here on a Greyhound Bus (a first time for us both) and with the finale of the Brisbane festival and a river trip still to come. Such a contrast from our rodeo experience of last Saturday in the Queensland hinterland but just as much fun!!

25 Sept 2019

25/9/2019: Mooloolaba

Our stay in Mooloolaba has been extended! The weather down towards Sydney is pretty cold (they even had snow last week!) so we decided to give it a couple more weeks before we move on. There's plenty to do around here, and it gives us a chance to visit Brisbane too, so it feels like the right decision!

Today we caught the local bus down to neighbouring Caloundra and walked several kilometres along the coastal path back towards Mooloolaba. A nice lunch out and pretty views made for a good day!

22 Sept 2019

22/9/19: Mooloolaba, Queensland

We decided to stay over the weekend in Mooloolaba in the end ... we'd not really seen the town itself and also we'd found out there was a genuine Aussie, National Rodeo Association, rodeo in an hinterland town about 70km away. We've never been to a rodeo before so it seemed too good an opportunity to miss. So yesterday morning we jumped in the car loaned to us by the local Jeanneau agent for the hour's drive up into the hills to the north-west of Mooloolaba.  The drive itself was very scenic, rolling hills, copses, pastureland and scattered farms, all much greener than down by the coast but still with a high risk of wild fires as everywhere is so dry.

Arriving in Kenilworth, a cute mountain town, we donned our hats (me my Panama, Paul his kangaroo cowboy) and off we went. We fitted right in: everyone was in cowboy boots, jeans with big buckles on their belts, check shirts and Stetsons. Great to see!

It turns out that 2019 is the centenary of the Kenilworth Rodeo and so the locals were out in their masses but it wasn't overcrowded at all. First stop was the woodchopping competition where men with big axes (and bellies to match) were competing in various challenges, all basically trying to chop through a log as quickly as possible. There's a time handicap and, amazingly, the chap with the 25 second handicap often won his class within 20 seconds of starting chopping.

After watching for a while we continued on to the rodeo arena just in time to see teenage cowboys bareback riding bucking bulls. A belt is tied around the bull's hind quarters and this seems to be what makes them buck, presumably trying to kick off the belt ... as well as the rider! Ten seconds was a good time to achieve. Most ended up in the dust within two or three!

Next up was steer lassoing, sometimes individually and sometimes in pairs. The horses and riders definitely work as one, perfectly in time. I did feel a bit sorry for the poor steers, especially when the steer lasso and wrestle to the ground competition started. But they all survived to live another day.

Probably the highlight was the bucking bronco competition. The Australian champion set the standard very high staying on the horse's back until the bell went and he then climbed onto the rear of one of the stewards' horses. As with the bulls, it seems to be the belt tied just in front of their tail and under their belly that causes them to buck. As soon as the belt was released, the horses started to calm down.

We strolled into the town centre for lunch and had a really nice meal at Nanna McGinns. Kenilworth is also famous for its 1kg doughnut challenge at the town bakery ... we decided to resist the temptation!

Back at the show we admired the classic car parade, recreating what happened at the inaugural show. It was interesting to see the different styles, far more open to the elements given the consistently sunny weather!

Returning to the rodeo arena we watched more of the competitions before heading back to the car in the late afternoon for the scenic drive back to the marina.

19 Sept 2019

19/9/19: Mooloolaba, Queensland

We've had a fabulous day today getting up close and personal with various creatures at Steve Irwin's 'Australia Zoo'. Now we're not usually zoo people, preferring to see animals in their natural habitat, but in the absence of seeing a dingo or koala in the last few days, needs must! So early this morning we paid our $59 each and within a few paces came face to face with the cutest koala! Holding it wasn't an option but we were welcome to stroke it as it munched on eucalyptus leaves. It's fur was so soft and thick. The koala was totally focussed on eating the leaves and, when it knocked the sprig of eucalyptus to the ground it had been eating and I bent to retrieve it, it had it whipped out of my hand in a flash. Apparently koalas have to eat a third of their body weight of eucalyptus a day and, because it is hard to digest, they spend over 18 hours a day snoozing. A hard life! They are seriously cute animals, tucking themselves into the forks of the trees. Adorable!

The zoo is spacious and the animals have large enclosures replicating their natural habitat. All of the animals are in first class condition, very well cared for. During our visit we saw a cassowary (a very large bird with huge feet!), dingos (remarkably like Cassie), wombats (shy and bigger than we expected) and interacted with kangaroos. Not to mention Tasmanian Devils, emus, saltwater crocodiles, reptiles, tropical birds and binturongs (also known as bearcats but not related to either!).

Wandering along to the Africa quarter, we were pleased to see a mini-Serengeti enclosure with giraffe, zebra and rhino living together in apparent harmony, including a young rhino. The male giraffe was so much taller than the females, almost a third as tall again .

One of the highlights of the visit had to be the tiger enclosure. The zoo has 12 adult Sumatran tigers and one fifteen week old cub called Nelson, who was a serious contender for the cutest critter of the day alongside the koalas. The keepers interact with the tigers every day, building strong relationships as evidenced by the two young keepers in the enclosure with three adults. Rather then than me!!

Mid-afternoon we headed up into the hills again with magnificent views over the Glasshouse Mountains. Such a lovely area!

Another great day in Queensland.