Uralba and Brisbane

Getting Lost at the Weekend

We left Hervey Bay to stay in a quiet retreat in the country for the weekend, in a beautiful valley surrounded by forests, friends, mountains and nature. It’s an annual event and it is idyllic. It’s is our first proper weekend off since we started our vagabonding journey 6 months ago so we intended to make the most of it.

Sunrise over the mountains
Sunrise over the mountains

We had great weather and the sky each night was as clear as I have ever seen it, with little or no light pollution.

Milky Way
Milky Way

The Milky Way was bright, majestic. As we sat round the firepit each night and looked up to the sky through the trees this is what we saw.

Milky Way through the trees
Milky Way through the trees

The same weekend, inspired by our encounter on Mount Ohlssen-Bagge in Wilpena Pound I thought I’d try my hand at rock stacking. It was really easy. Hope it’s still there when we return next year.

Rock stacking
Rock stacking

I read there’s a part of the world that is very beautiful and had lots of rocks scattered randomly by the forces of nature lying everywhere, can’t remember where it is. There’s a campaign by the locals to stop tourists building rock stacks there, they are saying it’s vandalism and it destroys the natural beauty of the place. If my rock stack is still there next year I’ll knock it down. Who am I kidding? If it’s still there next year I’ll be dead chuffed and take a picture and build another somewhere else.

Brisbane

After our weekend break with friends we went back to Brisbane for a week of pretty intense working. We booked into an AirBnB in South Brisbane boasting wonderful views of the city skyline.

South Brisbane Resort City Skyline view
South Brisbane Resort City Skyline view
South Brisbane Resort City Skyline view
South Brisbane Resort City Skyline view

We seem to have struck it lucky with views, last weeks city views looked like this. Same skyline from the other side.

Brisbane City Skyline
Brisbane City Skyline

Notice they are all night time pictures. I like the technical challenge of taking night time, low light pictures. I also discovered a new time lapse night picture feature thing on my camera I used for the last picture in this blog.

South Brisbane is an interesting place, we haven’t stayed there before. While walking between locations around the area we discovered some pretty spectacular street art on the bridges. This one is by Adnate and this is his web site https://www.adnate.com.au/

Pillars Project Art by Adnate
Pillars Project Art by Adnate

The G20 Summit was held in Brisbane in 2014 and to brighten up the place the local council employed several Brisbane artists to paint the pillars on the Merivale Bridge.  Inventively they called it “The Pillars Project”. The results are spectaular and well worth a visit if you get a chance.

Readers of the blogs will likely remember that I wrote about discovering the enormous painted grain silos in Coonalpyn.

Coonalpyn Murals
Coonalpyn Murals

I wrote about it in this blog. The Brisbane based artist Guido Van  Helten who painted those also painted this amazing picture.

The Pillars Project by Guido Van Helten
The Pillars Project by Guido Van Helten

This is Guido’s web site if you want to know more about his work. http://www.guidovanhelten.com/

A short distance from the place we were staying is the West End Gas Stripping Tower, a listed building manufacturered in Yorkshire in 1912.

West End  Gas Stripping Tower
West End Gas Stripping Tower

The tower was used in the removal of tar and ammonia from raw coal gas. Gas was piped into the base of the tower, from where it rose to the top via a series of internal baffles over which water was sprayed from a header tank at the top of the tower which you can see has been decoratively graffitied. This stripped the gas of coal tar and ammonia. The liquid was drained via a water seal at the bottom, and sold as ammonia liquor. It was acquired by the National Trust of Queensland in 1975 and is the only one left in Australia.

We also saw this fella showing off a bit in a small park near the river.

Rope Walker
Rope Walker

Walking back from dinner one night we saw this place still open. It looked very interesting, the girl you can see was practicing hula hooping. The place is called the Sideshow Hub.

The Sideshow in South Brisbane
The Sideshow in South Brisbane

The Sideshow Hub is a kids circus training, fun exercise place and vegan cafe. Their website says they are as “community of creators who are passionate about sharing a variety of art forms to a wider audience. We wish to deliver a ground roots social hub for artists, musicians, crafters, performers, practitioners and students alike.”

Maybe the rope walker was a patron.

It’s a tradition while Jenni and I are in Brisbane to take at least one walk along the river from Newstead to the Powerhouse and this trip was no exception. Brisbane river walks are beautiful, Jenni and I walked along the river chatting and getting to know each other the first night we met. It holds special memories.

Gasworks Newstead
Gasworks Newstead

We started at the Gasworks Newstead and were heading for our company staff dinner at the Brisbane Powerhouse. I tried not to hold us up clicking away as we walked, failed as it happens.

We saw the Kookaburra River Queen doing her best to keep the visitors to Brisbane entertained.

Kookaburra River Queen
Kookaburra River Queen

I must have walked past the Submariners Heritage Trail part of the river walk a thousand times and didn’t know there was glowing writing on it.

Submariners Heritage Trail
Submariners Heritage Trail

There’s no substitute for trying, at least once, to see the city you live in as a tourist.

When we arrived at the Brisbane Powerhouse there was an event running. As usual.

Brisbane Powerhouse
Brisbane Powerhouse

If you don’t know about this place it’s one of my favourite locations in Brisbane. Its history is this. It was built between 1928 and 1940 to supply electricity to the largest tram network in the southern hemisphere. When trams were replaced by buses, Brisbane City Council sold the building to the state. The Powerhouse was officially decommissioned in 1971 and became derelict and a shelter for the homeless. In 1989 the Council bought it back again and redeveloped it. The redeveloped Brisbane Powerhouse was opened in 2000. Seven years later they added the restaurant and bar and other functions and conference spaces. Brisbane Powerhouse was re-opened in 2007 and has been going strong ever since.

Original Power Station Switch Gear
Original Power Station Switch Gear

I find the space and the building atmospheric and fascinating. It is very photogenic, I see lots of different photoshoots in the grounds often.

Powerhouse
Powerhouse
Powerhouse interior
Powerhouse interior

While it was derilict the interior was covered in graffiti. They kept some of it for atmosphere and authenticity.

Graffiti in the Powerhouse
Graffiti in the Powerhouse

As a Doctor Who fan the black shape on the pillar looks to me a little like an original Cyberman.

Doctor Who Original Cyberman
Doctor Who Original Cyberman

They also hold Art Exhibitions regularly. This small exhibition was on the night Jenni and I visited.

Photo Exhibition at the Powerhouse
Photo Exhibition at the Powerhouse

With Brisbane well and truely done we packed up the Mazda 3 and drove off on another leg of our Vagabonding journey.

Tweed River Cruise

After Brisbane we had booked a short river cruise on the Tweed River with John and Ingrid.

Tweed River Eco Cruises
Tweed River Eco Cruises

Our cruise started at 9:30am from Tweed Heads after which we cruised to Tumblegum for a stopover then back to Tweed Heads by 2:00pm. That’s pronounced Tum-BOWL-gum and not Tumble-gum.

Tweed Heads Fishning Boats
Tweed Heads Fishning Boats

Tween Heads is a fishing port. John regularly visits the trawlers as they return at 5:30am to buy the fish and prawns and other sea food fresh from the fishermen directly.

Cruising out along the river we came by the Ukerabagh Island nature reserve.

Ukerabagh Island
Ukerabagh Island

History goes that someone wanted to develop the island as an industrial centre. However they didn’t reckon on Senator Neville Bonner, who was an Australian politician, and the first Indigenous Australian to become a member of the Parliament of Australia. Neville Bonner was born on the island and his grandmother was buried on the island under a palm tree. The island has significance to the Aboriginal people and he fought the developers and won and now its a nature reserve. Well done Neville.

Past the island you come to the “New Bridge” and the “Old Bridge”

New Bridge and Old Bridge
New Bridge and Old Bridge

The little bridge was in use up to 1996 before the Barney’s Point Bridge was opened. If you look closely you can see a thing on top of the electricity pole. Looks like an upside down umbrella, Thats an Osprey nest. We saw lots more varients of them along the river including one in an electricity pylon. They all had birds in them.

 

A short while later we fed the local birds. They seem to know when we are coming.

Feeding the Birds
Feeding the Birds

Like the Red Arrows the Pelicans arrive in formation

Pelican formation flying
Pelican formation flying

Then the birds of prey turn up.

In a showoff maneauver the Osprey grabs a lump of meat thrown into the air by our guide and flys off.  A cheeky Seagull has other plans for the tidbit.

Seagull on the stern Captain,. closing fast.
Seagull on the stern Captain, closing fast.

Gotcha!

Holy crap, where did he come from?
Holy crap, where did he come from?

The feature on the horizon that dominates the views is Mount Warning named by Lieutenant Cook in 1770.

Fshing in the view of Mount Warning
Fishing in the view of Mount Warning

When navigating the Tweed River he came across some dangerous reefs which he inventively named “Danger Reefs”. To navigate around them safely he wrote that when the pointy mountain in the distance is exactly on your port side, turn. He named the mountain Mount Warning as it warned sailors of the reefs.

Fellow photographer on the cruise
Fellow photographer on the cruise

This little craft sits permanently in the middle of the river harvesting the silt. It’s the last licensed silt harvesting operation on the Tweed.

Silt Harvester
Silt Harvester

The hill in the background used to be covered in huge Cedar trees with trunks over 2 metres in diameter. Then, around 1880, the Cedar Getters as they were called, felled the lot of them. They’d chop them down and slide them down a prepared slope on the hill into the river where they’d be chained together like a raft. Then they’d be let go and allowed to float down the river to the entrance where a burly bloke with a chain on a hook would hook them before they drifted out to sea.

Cane fields and flood gates
Cane fields and flood gates

Another crop grown in this fertile region is sugar cane. The cane fields flood occasionally and all along the bank of the river are gates like these that let the flood waters out once they get too high.

Pretty soon we arrive in Tumbulgum, the farthest point up the river on the cruise.

Tumbulgum Tavern
Tumbulgum Tavern

We were scheduled to stop there for about 45 minutes while the crew prepared our lunches so of course we went for a drink.

Drinks at the Tumbulgum Tavern
Drinks at the Tumbulgum Tavern

The tavern walls are adorned with pictures from the era of the Cedar Getters.

Pictures in the Tumbulgum Tavern
Pictures in the Tumbulgum Tavern

Another famous tale of Tumbulgum is retold in this exhibit. The Tumbulgum Groper which was caught in 1828 with a meat hook.

Tumbulgum Groper
Tumbulgum Groper

This story is from their web site.

“This painting depicts the Groper at 1/2 size caught at Tumbulgum in 1828 by Joe Ostram. It weighed in at 800 pounds and was shown at the Tweed Show. A 17 stone man could sit in its mouth with head room. A full mould of ice in its gut looked like loaf sugar. Joe was working on the Banana’s on the mountain when he noticed a big dark shape moving in the river where children were bathing nearby.So he downed tools and raced across the river on the ferry and got the kids out. He had the blacksmith make this hook, baited it with the hind of a calf, with a 44 gallon drum for a float and a bushell bag of rocks for an anchor.
The lure was set. The first bite near sunk the drum but it soon tired and drowned from no ventilation. It was rushed to the freezer of the Tweed Butter factory till the Show.”

Pretty soon the horn on the boat sounded and we returned for our sumptious lunch and the cruise back down the river.

Then Jenni and I said farewell to John and Ingrid and drove an hour south to an Airbnb in Platypus Drive in Uralba which would be our base for the next 2 weeks.

Uralba

Our little haven in the middle of Uralba was chosen as a decompression chamber of sorts to allow us time to get caught up with work duties for the next 2 weeks and decompress from the frantic previous 2 weeks in Brisbane.

Banana farm in Uralba
Banana farm in Uralba

The AirBnB was next door to a banana farm and in the middle of a Hoop Pine forest. Part of our routine is to go for a walk each working day to keep active. It would be so easy to just sit and work and never get out.

As the place we were staying was on Platypus Drive, one of the walks was to the creeks to see if we could find the Platypus it was named after. This is the creek they are supposed to be in. He wasn’t to be seen that day unfortunately.

Platypus Creek
Platypus Creek

I’m pretty sure if you look closely enough you can see the Platypus behind us laughing as we turned our backs on him.

Jim and Jenni at Platypus Creek
Jim and Jenni at Platypus Creek

The walk took us past a farm with some inquisitive horses that came running when they saw us walk along the lane.

Inquisitive Horse
Inquisitive Horse

This fella got a bit too inquisitive.

VERY inquisitive horse
VERY inquisitive horse

This banana tree was growing in one of the neighbours gardens. This is a very fertile location.

Banana tree
Banana tree

It hadn’t rained for many months but they had some very welcome rain due this weekend. It rained on cue Saturday morning but cleared by by 11am.

Seems we have that power. In Wilpena Pound they didn’t have any rain for 18 months and the weekend Jenni and  I get there they had a thunderstorm. For Douglas Adams fans it’s a little like Rob McKenna. We seem to be able to bring a little bit of Ireland with us wherever we go.That is, of course, coincidence

A real Rob McKenna would be in high demand in this country at this time. There’s a drought crisis in the farming belt in Australia. This July was the second-hottest July on record, and the driest since 2002. It continued a 15-month run of very low rainfall across the farming belts of New South Wales, central Queensland, the north-west of Victoria and South Australia. Climate change in action.

In this part of the world though there was a weekend of heavy rain due. The rural community are delighted and the lady who runs our AirBnB was cleaning out the gutters when we arrived to catch the rain to fill her water tanks.

Coastal Walk

On Saturday we organised to do a 12 km walk along the coast between Sharpe’s Beach and Lennox Heads with a lunch break in between.

Sharpes Beach

At Sharpes Beach we saw this sign.

Shark Net Trial
Shark Net Trial

The key point of this is that it is whale watching season. We hoped to see some on our walk and we weren’t dissappinted. The season started earlier of course, again, because the seas were warmer due again, to climate change. Even on the short time we’ve been travelling we’ve seen evidence of this.

The path between Sharpes Beach and Lennox Heads won’t be found on Google Maps. In some places it’s a narrow track over the headlands worn down by generations of walkers before us, in other its a boardwalk with handrails, wide and safe.

Sharpe's Beach - Starting Point
Sharpe’s Beach – Starting Point

There are several headlands that jut out into the sea between the two points. Its an rollercoaster of a walk. You leave Sharpes Beach and rise up Whites Head.

Whites Head
Whites Head

Then along the cliff edge past Skennars Head

Skennars Head
Skennars Head

As you will observe the weather was beautiful after the rain of Saturday morning.

Skennars Head
Skennars Head

It is a beautiful place to be. Flora and Fauna adorned the walk set against the backdrop of the azure sea. It makes you feel good to be alive.

Banksia plants were in abundance
Banksia plants were in abundance

After Skennars Head we dropped down in the aptly named Boulder Beach. We could go up over the headland called Iron Peg or round it boulder hopping. As the tide was out far enough we decided to take the boulder hopping route and very glad we did.

Just atound the headland we saw a whale of surfers. That is one of the collective nouns for a group of surfers I am reliably informed by the internet.

A whale of surfers
A whale of surfers

In the distance behind the whale of surfers was a real whale. You can jsut make out the blow in the distance in this picture.

A whale behind a whale of surfers
A whale behind a whale of surfers

Later on we were to see a group of them breaking the surface, whales that is, not surfers.

The whales having fun
The whales having fun

I really need to remember to bring my 300mm lens if there’s a chance of catching and whale sightings.

Jenni and I sat on the rocks at the headland for a while watching what was going on.

Two manly men got suited up in front of us then jumped off the rocks to go spearfishing.

 

Some of the surfers caught a wave or two.

Surfers surfing in the surf
Surfers surfing in the surf

And a Sooty Oyster Catcher came for a look to see what we were up to.

Sooty Oyster Catcher
Sooty Oyster Catcher

In the rock pools surrounding where we sat small (and perfectly camoflaged) crabs were mooching about having fun and creating bubbles.

Camoflaged Crab in Rock Pool
Camoflaged Crab in Rock Pool

Here’s a better picture of him when he came to the surface to check us out.

Crab in the rock pool
Crab in the rock pool

Remember in other past blogs I’ve observed that every beach in Australia is different and has it’s own unique things to see. This was no different.

The tide was coming in and we were in danger of getting trapped on the rocks so we hopped off towards the beach. Eagle eyed Jenni spotted something else interesting.

Star fish clinging to the rocks at the waters edge, hundreds of them in all different colours.

Star fish rock
Star fish rock

This cute red one was hiding under another rock.

Red Star Fish
Red Star Fish

There was a rare Sea Urchin clinging to the underside of another rock.

Sea Urchin
Sea Urchin

Later we’d be told that they are making a comeback after many years of being wiped out by a couple of Kiwi blokes who loved the taste of them and cleaned the entire beach of all of them.

The tide was coming in rapidly. The star fish were getting swept up and dragged back out to sea for another while.

Even the rocks had interesting features on them. Not sure what they are yet but I’ll find out and do an update in future blogs. For now I’ll call them McNulty rocks in a nod to Middenface McNulty, a character in the 2000AD comic, who had lumps that look like these things on his head.

McNulty Rocks
McNulty Rocks

This wonderful and complex ecosystem was in about 3 metres of beach. There was nothing on the rocks before or after this. Life is indeed fragile.

Lennox Heads

We walked up and over the last headland at Lennox Heads. At the top there’s a lookout point with locks secured to the fence that surrounds it by lovers professing their eternal love.  There are also signs from Lifeline to let those desperate souls who may be up there and considering ending their lives that there is always help at the end of the phone. Quite a range of emotions flood you thinking about those two acts taking place in the same location.

Lennox Heads is used by hang gliding enthusiasts and there were a few up and about this day as we crossed over the headland and down into the town of the same name for lunch.

Hang Gliding off Lennox Heads
Hang Gliding off Lennox Heads

We stopped randomly and serendipitiously in a cafe called Coast @ Lennox. Lunch was served by a famous Surf Board shaper called Frank McWilliams and prepared by his wife Libbe, a classically French trained chef.

A McWilliams hand shaped surf board sat in the corner of the cafe.

A McWilliams hand shaped surf board
A McWilliams hand shaped surf board

The food was excellent, I mean very, very excellent. Not cafe food at all, much better.

After a smoked salmon salad starter and seared salmon main we still had room for the treacle and fruit tart with ice cream.

Treacle Tart at Coast @ Lennox
Treacle Tart at Coast @ Lennox

Frank was a great host, his wife was a great chef. I’d wholeheartedly recommend this place to eat if you are ever in Lennox Heads.

Feeling very happy and very full we walked off the meal during the 6kms walk back to Sharpe’s beach over the headlands again.

That night I lit the fire in the firepit for us to have our sundowner drinks by. This was the last night for a while it would be dry enough for sitting outside however the early rain in the morning made the wood damp and it sputtered instead of roared.

As the sparks flew high into the night sky as we sipped our drinks and contemplated what a fabulous country this is and how lucky we are to be living here at this time.

Sundowner drinks by the fire
Sundowner drinks by the fire

We’re in Uralba for another week then we drive farther south to Kianga where we are hoping to see the whales migration up close. That, you can be sure, will be recorded in future blogs. Till then folks stay happy and have fun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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