Australia – Toowoomba to Maleny

I left the Sunday Motel before 08:00 and headed for the Japanese gardens which feature in the tourist blurb. It was strangely in a housing estate on the edge of the city. The gardens are Ju Raku En (roughly translated means ‘to enjoy peace and longevity in a public place’) were opened on 21 April 1989 by Mr Yoshiharu Araki from the Brisbane Consul-General of Japan. I chose the wrong time for a visit as they were not that peaceful a gales was blowing and the gardener was shaping the shrubs with a petrol hedge strimmer. I didn’t stay longer than it took to walk around and take a few pictures.

On the way out of the city I grabbed a coffee and wrote a few postcards. I hadn’t appreciated how high up the city is, as I left there was a steep motorway with views across the plains below. Lorries were warned to use a low gear and there were two emergency escape lanes one which had been used, based on the tracks. Towards the bottom a few lorries were going really slowly, despite the hill leveling out a bit, I theorised that they had hot brakes or something.

I stopped for another coffee at a rest stop at the bottom then made the mistake of trying to take a country road. It was a good gravel track to start but about 15km in it dwindled down to a narrow track, I decided was too off road, so I had to double back. The countryside was flat and agricultural for a while and on a couple of detours I passed through some small towns with the traditional high street and not much else, Lowood was a good example and I stopped to take a look around.

Phil had recommended a route cross country to the east of the waters formed by Somerset Dam. I found the route despite Google complaining, and climbed steadily, then I was in rolling hills for a while. I passed through a very small village with a Coronation gall and a shop, there were a lot of trailers with powerful speed boats on trailers. I stopped to investigate, they were there to fish in the fast flowing waters of the river which was swollen by the rains and the Dan just up stream generating electricity, it was in full flow. I’m not sure how speed boats and fishing mix but there were boats promoting fishing magazines and tackle.

Next stop was Kilcoy, another small town far from the previous town. I’m figuring that the reason these towns can support small independent shops, is the distance to the next town, although I got the impression some were hanging on by a string.

Maleny was an interesting place, there was a spiritual hippy feel to the place. I wandered up and down the high street and bought a second hand book. In a local artist cooperative I managed to find that elusive gift I had been searching for for Helen, no clues as to what it might be here ;-).

I had already passed her my accommodation was, so it was easy to find Sienna Chalets, which turned out to be a B&B. The room was clean and comfortable, breakfast was included. Accommodation is more expensive than the UK so it always felt like the accommodation was slightly shorter version priced, either that or I am a tight arse. I settled in and started to process two days worth of photos, then headed down to road to Brouhaha brewery for something to eat. The beer selection. Was great although a little bit less fizz and not so cold and I think they may have cracked making a good beer. I had broadbean falafel for a starter and a seared tuna salad for main, the most healthy meal for quite a few days. All tasted and went down nicely. I was in bed early as I had booked a 07:30 breakfast, I had a mountain to climb and a giant pineapple to visit the next day. Watch this space.

Australia – The Pyramids and Toowoomba

I woke up at about 07:30 and my alarm went off, I had decided to skip the motel breakdfast to get an early start. I grabbed a Snickers, fruit and water from the Coles over the road, then headed to the Pyramids for a second summit attempt. On the way out I grabbed a coffee from a cafe and my Snickers served as breakfast.

It only took about 30 minutes to get those the Girrawin National Park, I parked up and my alarm went on again, I realised I had assed onto another state New South Wales was on daylight savings, and my mobile had picked the time up from the mobile network. Some backpackers were dismantling their tents before the park rangers turned up.

I set out along the now familiar path, there were a lot more Kangaroos about, and headed up the steep steps to the section where I had abandoned the day before. The route across the rocks were fine now they were dry. I was surprised how exposed the route was in places. I got to a point where the rock was again wet after some pondering I decided to regroup and sat on a rock, whilst the sun which was occasionally breaking through the clouds did its stuff and dried the rock surface. I waited about 30 minutes and things looked no better so for a second time I reluctantly turned around. On the way down I warned a couple about the wet rock, they thanked me but wanted to see it for themselves. I wonder if they took the challenge on.

I dropped in to the Pyramids vinery on the way back to the main road and got G&L some wine for putting up with me, then took after a few miles on the road took a few back roads. I left the granite rim and was now in an agricultural region, all the way to Toowoomba.

I came to one town called Allora which was typical of the towns you come across in these parts. One street or block in the centre has all the local shops, some of them not really shops, i.e. lawyers, vets doctors. The high street is normally really wide and cars park diagonally, there is never normally a problem finding a space.

Next came big open skies over a big agricultural plain, with crops and cattle in every available field. The road slowly climbed to Toowoomba. I parked up and went for a wander. The local art museum reminded me of home with the landscape paintinf by English artists. One of the reasons for visiting Toowoomba was to meetup with Phil who I had been at school with over 37 years previously. His wife ison Facebook and arranged themeetong. We went to a coffee shop and spent two hours talking about school and what we had been up too since. It is not something I would normally do but I really enjoyed meeting up and would definitely do it with other old friends.

We said our goodbyes byes and I headed to a close Thai restaurant, and had prawn Lhaksa even though it was not on the menu. My quest for the perfect one continues.

Australia – Queen Mary falls and Girraween National Park

I got a good night’s sleep, so was up early, it was cold in the cabin because they are not well insulated, probably not necessary given the usual climate. I left the hut at 08:00 and headed towards Killarney where the Queen Mary falls are. By pure chance I decided to take a Google suggested alternative, but slightly slower route rather than the national highway. After leaving Stanthorpe it turned into a gravel road, I had a AWD so I followed it, through some beautiful country. There were lots of photo opportunities, but I didn’t taken them all because most of the time it was raining. The whole drive took about an hour, occasionally I would come across tarmac where there was a village.

The last village I came to was called Legume and I stopped in the village shop for petrol, and a bag of crisps. As I was trying to figure out the petrol pump a lady came out and offered to fill it for me. We got chatting and it turns out her husband was from Bexley and had been a £10 pom. He said that he was last back there in 1975. The shop was full of the usual stuff crisps etc, but also has a lot of beer wines and spirits for sale. They gave me a tourist map of Warwick I thanked them and and carried on.

My first real stop of the day was Queen Mary falls the most spectacular of a series on Spring Creek. I parked up and headed to to the lookout which was a short walk. The falls were impressive, and I noticed that at the bottom there was a walkway so I headed round the longer path, taking in more of the rain forest and the base of the falls. When I got back to the car I popped over the road for coffee and cake, which came with a squirt of cream, it would have been rude to not eat it. Outside there were parrots feeding on bird seed, as well as some tiny pretty looking birds with red Tails, they turned out to be Firetail Finches.

My next destination was Mount Bald where some interesting balancing rocks have formed. The route took me back on the gravel tracks I had followed early in the day. It was an hour’s drive and a bit tricky to find as I was using offline Google maps. I parked up and found out at the visitors centre that the walk to Pyramid summit was about 2 hours return, I had enough time.

On the way I detoured to see the balanced rock forming an arch over the path, and then headed up the path to the summit. It was threatening rain, but I was feeling lucky. Eventually the path climbed steeply for many steps and then the steps ran out and a rock hill took over. There were white marks painted on the rock to showtgw way. I started to climb but although I might have got up I realised the rock was too slippery tockne down. Reluctantly I turned around, especially as it could have got wetter if the rain started again. On the way down I saw a group of Kangaroos grazing in a clearing, when a black animal which from a distance looked and acted like a pig walked across the area where the roos were grazing.

The drive to Tenterfield, where I had a motel room booked, was about an hour and pretty straight forward. The motel was basic but clean, breakfast was crazy so I thought I would leave it and get something on my way in the morning. I went for a walk down the High Street to see what there was, it seemed to be a one horse town. All the buildings were in an art deco style.

Sir Henry Parkes was the local here there was a school or arts and musuem dedicated to him. According to Wikipedia he was the father of the Australian federation. “Sir Henry Parkes, GCMG (27 May 1815 – 27 April 1896) was a colonial Australian politician and longest non-consecutive Premier of the Colony of New South Wales, the present-day state of New South Wales in the Commonwealth of Australia. He has been referred to as the “Father of Federation” due to his early promotion for the federation of the six colonies of Australia, as an early critic of British convict transportation and as a proponent for the expansion of the Australian continental rail network.”

I decided that the Commercial Hotel was the best place for details nner so I had a shower headed out at about 18:30. Lemon pepper squid was my choice which came with chips and salad, and was tasty. I spent some time researching my next move then went back to process my pictures and do a sun dance in the hope of better weather.

Australia – Brisbane to Stanthorpe via the Gold Coast

I had a hire car to pick up and a ledge booked for the Monday night, I was off on a road trip. We work up in the G&L household to a power cut. G dropped me off at Europcar and I picked up a Subaru Forrester. I headed for the Gold Coast on the M1 which quite busy, but I eventually arrived at the Gold Coast. However the traffic light were always red so I really wonder why I had bothered. I stopped and grabbed a coffee and then headed in land.

My accommodation was booked at a vineyard just outside Stanthorpe, but I was going to take my time getting there taking in the landscape. First I headed for Mount Tambourine which is actually a town. I stopped off at the tourist information then headed out to the Skywalk a raised walkway int he rain forest. It was raining a bit when I got there which ironically was probably the right sort of weather to visit a rain forest. I grabbed a macadamia nut biscuit from the cafe then headed towards Warwick.

I took a few small roads on the way taking in some great views of the agricultural area where most cleared fields had cattle grazing. At Warwick I parked up and stretched my legs with a walk up the high street where the cars all park at 45 degrees to the pavement down both sides.

As I approached my final destination it started to rain/drizzle, but I managed to find the Ridgemill estate at about 17:00. The accommodation was one of 8 chalets all with a parking porch. I headed into Stanthorpe and grabbed some fish and chops for dinner, which would be the second night in a row.

Australia – Wireless museum Blue Mountains Botanical Gardens

I thought I would have an easy day, without too much walking, a few weeks earlier I had discovered that there was a wireless museum, towards the Blue Mountains but I had not managed to check it out. So my plan was to drive out there and take a look, then take it from there.

I parked up at the museum, there was space fire just five cars, just my sort of museum. The owner cam out of his house, and introduced himself, Ian ran the museum and I it seemed was his only visitor so far that day. He unlocked and took my $10 entrance fee. It was my type of museum, packed the the rafters, in this case with old radios, there must have been at least a thousand. Most of them worked or did when they were put out on display.

Ian was a friendly chap, and was keen to demonstrate and explain the history of some of them. He warnede that Rodger would might turn up and that if he did he would have a Philips radio with him. I was so ask Ian questions if he did. Five minutes later Rodger turned up, with his Philips radio set, which he plonked down and started to explain that it needed repairing. I asked Ian at me questions, but Rodger was keen to demonstrate his knowledge of radios.

A little while later a young guy called Rex turned up with his partner, they had not however been warned about Rodger and got drawn into conversation. Rodgers carer came in and lurked around and left with Rodger a while later when he had got bored. One of the biggest radios was off a ship which had been seized by the authorities for drug smuggling. It was about six feet wide and tall, and was fully functional, Ian had acquired it through an aquaintance who helped him transport it back to the museum on a trailer.

Ian was a mine of information he played a record that was the theme music of an Australian radio soap that was supposedly the inspiration for the Archers. He also has the first FM radio station transmitter in Australia, and knew the weaknesses in all the radios he had, apparently through repairing them all. He learnt radio when as a child his parents ownedba newsagents, and he used to look at the Wireless hobby magazine which intrigued him, he has to write down the queries he had and ask the people who collected the magazines to get the answers, but after a while he realises he had learnt enough to know more than some of them.

I said said my goodbyes and headed out to the Blue Mountains Botanical Gardens, glad I had remembered that the museum existed. It was a pleasant 30 minute drive to the gardens, the road was steep and twisty on places. I parked up and had a wander around. Although there was a lot of work going on in the gardens it was well worth the visit, plenty of the plants were flowering. I spotted plenty of birds as well, Crimson rosella, Blackbird, New Holland Honeyeater, and Eastern Spinebill. Best of all and one of my top three Australian birds was the Fairy Wrens, a bright blue male and the drab female, pecking around in the grass.

I grabbed a coffee on the way out which as I have found in Australia always involves a long wait, I don’t know why but it seems to be the rule here. Before I found the car I detoured to look at the spring garden flowers, which I am not sure whether they were native, the plans looked to delicate, Iris, pansy and tulip, were the main ones.

I decided to take the long way back via some small roads, and my adventured started with a 5km dirt track which led to another road across rolling agricultural land, it was very scenic. Eventually I came a cross a roll on roll off ferry. It was free but the ferry man said I had to stay in my car so I could not get any pictures. I stopped at an apple shop in Bilpin which is a local apple producing area.

I headed out and had a Lhaksa with prawns for dinner and had an early night as I had work in the morning and was still adjusting to Sydney time.

Australia -Sydney Spit Bridge to North Head via Manly

I got back to the hotel late, so with no time to research a day out I decided to drive to North Head then get the bus to Spot Bridge then do the classic walk back to Manly. After going off track and bus went crossing the harbour bridge again, that’s three times now, I got to North Head at 09:00. I parked up and then walked from the head to Manly where I caught a bus.

According to Wikipedia “North Head is a headland south-east of the suburb of Manly. It is part of Sydney Harbour National Park. The headland is a promontory of sandstone and is 3.85 square kilometers (1.49 sq mi) in area.” There were a lot of military buildings, defense positions, and a military memorial wall.

It was mainly down hill Manly via Shelly beach whilst taking photos some lifeguards asked me if I had seen it, I said what! There had apparently been a shark spotted. They warned some swimmers, then radio’d base and ran off to save some more people. Manly is pretty much you typical seaside town lots of shops selling either beach wear or souvenirs. I wandered down to the ferry terminal, and grabbed a falafel salad from one of the food stands for later. Google directed me to the next bus to Spit Bridge.

The bus did not take long to get to Spit Bridge as the bus took the more direct route rather than hugging the twisted coast line which the path hugs closely even using a beach at one point. I saw an interesting business a guy in a speed boat was selling ice creams to people on the beaches. He went from beach to beach the boat name was the Sea-ducer I wonder if he sold juices as well. I managed a couple of time lapses on the walk. The weather was mainly sunny with some clouds, in the lee of the wind and in the sun it was hot but in the shade with the wind it was cold.

Ahead of me two girls ran screaming, I asked them what the matter was, they explained that there was a lizard on the path. It turned out to be a dragon lizard which are fairly common in the area. It was sat on the path and quite brave not moving when I approached. It was about a foot long excluding the tail, i.e. nose to rear legs. I went to take a picture but some people coming the other way scared it off. Later on nearer Manly I came a cross a very obliging one and was able to get a close up at eye level shot with my fish eye.

When I got to manly I decided that I could get a taxi back to the car as I had done the bit to North head earlier. I was quite tired by the time I was back at the car so I headed back to my hotel via the local supermarket fish stall for some grilled sea perch and chips.

Australia – Last days in Perth and trip back to Sydney

The project had been on the whole successful and as a treat we were all take out to see some Japanese Taiko drummers who happened to be at His Majesty’s Theatre on the Thursday. The show was at 19:30 and we had a table booked for 16 at a restaurant called The Stables near by. The food was excellent we shared three starters of Sashimi, Goats cheese balls and Duck leg confit. Fo rmain I had a Salmon dish which was excellent.

Although we had plenty of time we almost got locked out of the theatre, arriving just before the lights went down. I did not really know what to expect as how many ways are there to hit a drum? I was about to be corrected, they did set pieces and geez were they good at at it, and the combined sound of many drums is with different stick weights is surprisingly versatile.

The show was about 2 hours including the interval, we then split into three groups those who where staying the south of Perth, local and 4 of us who were staying at the Quality Ambassador. We were on a mission to track down a pale ale from the Cheeky Monkey brewery, we had tried it a previous night. It is a long story regardin how we came to find it but it involved, not going to a Chinese for a curry, a long walk, and a very hot Lhaksa. We headed back to the hotel but stopped off at a multi bar restaurant building. We tried to get our chosen beer at the “Beer corner” but they didn’t have it, so we went down stairs to to the Asian Fusion restaurant, they had the beer we were looking for.

We stopped for a couple and had a great laugh chewing the cud and celbrating the success of the project. Then we headed back to the hotel where we arrived slightly later than anticipated. We went straight to our rooms and some of us met for breakfast at 07:00 and others skipped breakfast for an extra 30 hour in bed.

We were only at the office till just before 12 the airport was close, however we took a wrong turning, and ended up at the wrong terminal and had to double back. For some reason I could not check my bag in, so S took me to the check in desk with his Qantas Gold card. Unfortunatley it was too late, I would have to get the next flight. Luckily it was only an hour after the original,but they wanted $150 to change flight. The 15:15 left on time and I even managed to get my centre seat changed for a window seat.

I landed at 10 and got to my hotel at 23:30 it had been a long day.

Australia – Double Header Weekend at Work

As it was the cutover weeked for the project I was working on there would be not a lot of leisure time as we would be working the Saturday and Sunday. The weeked coincided with a double header weekend the final of the Ozzie rules football was on the Saturday and the Ozzie rugby league final was on the Sunday.

We went for a leisurely 08:00 start on the Saturday after early starts all week, and we were in the office by 09:00. The plan was to do all the cutover stuff, such as making sure all the transactional stuff which was partially processed was put on the system whilst normal users were not, so that the postings wold be done in way that was not the same as for normal processing.

The AFL final was being listened to or streamed to mobiles by some of us, one person in particular was a Brisbane fan, they were the under dogs but there was high hopes as they had pulled something out of the bag as the season completed, winning crucial matches when it counted. They started off slightly behind but towards the end they had a commanding lead, and eventually won by 48 points. Someone had arranged for a bottle of champagne, and we all had a glass to celebrate.

We worked until 19:00 so it was a longer day than we anticipated. We went back to the hotel and did a quick turnaround and headed out to a pub called The Grovesnor for some dinner. I had a light meal grill Barramundi on crushed potatoes and salad, which was nice, a couple of schonners of a local ale washed it al down. I was in bed by 21:00 we had another early start on Sunday.

We had breakfast at 07:00 and left for the office at 07:30, when we arrived we had a five minute wait for a key holder to let us in. It was a to be a ground hog day, we we mostly doing data entry tasks to get open balances for customers, vendors and stock, although some of it could be uploaded, there was upfront Excel work to get it all in the right format.

The day dragged on a bit, I busied myself getting reporting to see the new transactions. By 16:30 we were still in the office, and the Rugby League Final was to start at 17:00ish. Someone managed to get sign up for a weekly free pass trial, and managed to get the game running on a laptop. We would at least be able to keep track of the game.

In the end Storm won and the Tigers lost it was the wrong result for the people at work, as a couple came from the East Coast. It was getting late in the day sowe called it a day at 19:00 it had been a long day, and there was still Monday morning to face when the users come in and use the system.

Australia – John Forrest National park Eagle View Walk Trail

I was up relatively early, and left the hotel at 0800, my destination was the John Forrest Nature Park, to walk the Eagle View Walk Trail. It is only a short 30 minute drive out of Perth, but I didn’t go direct I took the less travelled road as you see more stuff. In Midland I came across signs for a market, so I stopped hoping to get something to take with me for lunch. An English guy selling bread supplied me with a long sour dough garlic and herb roll, and a cinamen twirl. I grabbed a coffee from what must be the biggest coffee shop I have ever seen, a vast hall with food down one side and a coffee serving counter island in the middle, it reminded me of a transport cafe.

The park was easy to find as it was well sign posted, a 1km tarmac track lead to a picnic area and parking. The entrance fee was $13 per car, so cheaper if you are with friends. I parked up and finished my coffee off and then went to the wardens hut to sign the book to register my walk.

There was a slight detour at the start of the walk, due to a new bridge installation, and once detoured the track headed up hill for a couple of km’s. The sun was out but I expected rain and the cumulus clouds were building and it looked a bit grey in the west where the weather comes from. There were lots of large boulders and rocky it crops, on one I spied a parrot, with a yellow splash on its neck, it was an Australian Ring Necked Parrot. The spring flowers were really starting to show there was plenty of yellow red and blue ones, I hadn’t a clue what their names were. I was quite lucky on the bird id front I spotted the distinctive Red Tailed Black Cocatoo, as well as Rufous Whistler and Shining Cuckoo.

At about the 2km to go mark I felt I had walked far enough which is perfect as I like to go just a little bit further than that. As I got back to the picnic area where the walked started would you believe it, two kangaroos hopped past, I had just spent 5 hours walking through the forest and hadn’t seen any, only the odd print in the sandy track.

It was around 1400 which meant I would have time to get a haircut, I don’t have a comb and although I got it cut before I left the UK it sometimes looked like it needed a comb. I headed back towards Perth but stopped at a shopping centre and did a Google map search for haircut open on Sunday’s Samurai Japanese barbers was only 4 minutes drive away. I found it it was one of three shops in a row on a main road the other two were shut and so did the barbers look. I pushed on the door and to my surprise it was open, a short (aren’t they all) stout Japanese guy with a pork pie hat at first said he did not have a slot but I explained I just wanted the clippers on it he agreed. I must say he paid the most attention to detail I have ever experienced from a barber. Apart from trimming my nose, and ear hairs he trimmed my eye brows and did a wet shave on my neck. Finally he washed my hair and then checked that there were no stray longer hairs missed by the clippers. For all that he only charged $20, great value.

I went to the Italian around the block from the hotel and had squid for dinner, then chilled out before going to the airport to pick up A who was flying in from Sydney and staying for the next two weeks.

Australia – A car tour south of Perth

I had a walk planned for Sunday not far from Perth city, and I wanted to make the most of my unplanned weekend on the area, so I decided to head south on the car to see what I could find.

Highway 2 is the main road that heads south, I decided to head out on that road, as far as Bunbury then take my time on the way back. I stopped for petrol and a coffee about 30 minutes out, it is surprising how quickly it becomes rural, some of the roads leading off the dual carriageway were just dirt tracks. I took a detour about an hour out near a lake, and in a field close by were a troop of Kangaroo, lazing about as they do. I didn’t quite get to Bunbury I came across a shopping centre with a post office, I needed some stamps for some postcards, although I was not on holiday I thought I should make an effort.

I had driven far enough and chose to head in land to see what I could find. It became very rural very quickly all I passed were villages ans communities most often at cross roads. On the main roads there was the odd cafe or garage, as well as small businesses feed merchants featured, I was in cattle country, the fields were flat and lush green. Some fields had watering apparatus, where water lay the indigenous scrubby trees remained, no point in grubbing them out cattle won’t graze on water logged marsh.

At a place called Harvey I stopped at an information centre, to find out what was in the surrounding area. I opted to go and look at the Harvey dam, from which there were some good views but there was no real scope for taking a hike anywhere, so I took some pictures and moved on to Clifton Lake where I read there are Thrombolytes, which are primitive living organisms which create limestone jumps on the lake bed as they extract calcium from the lake water.

I took a smallish road back to the coast where the lake is, I stopped a couple of times to take photos as the light was really good. The area around Clifton Lake is a globally significant area for migrating birds. I passed the lake to have a look at the sea then headed back to where the Thrombolytes are. The site is at the end of a wooden walkway over the lake a few hundred metres from the car park, again I grabbed some puctures, but hung around watching birds in the reeds, and a lizard sunning itself on the sun warmed wood.

Next I needed to stretch my legs and I remembered I had passed a parking area near a circular walk about 5 km’s long. The walk was quite Holly and the terrain very rocky made of limestone. I kept seeing what looked like prints from Jurassic park, and it took me a while to figure out what they were, at the time I decided they were Kangaroo tracks, but later after some research I decided they must have been Emu tracks they were just like the pictures and Emus gave been spotted in the area. At the point where the track looped back I heard something in the bushes that was quite big I like to think it was the Emu I had been stalking. The path goes on a one way detour up high at one point and I took the detour and had some rolls and Tasmanian blue cheese whilst enjoying the view.

I took the coast road back through Rockingham, which seemed to be fully of heavy industry, and Fremantle which I had not seen from the fishing port end. There was a Ferris wheel and lots of sea front restaurant chains.

It had been a good road trip and I think I got a good flavour of the South Perth area including the farming landscape. For dinner I went to the Balti Indian restaurant, and retired early to bed I had a hike planned for Sunday.