ESK – via Brisbane and Sydney

At the end of our last blog we were on our way to Brisbane from Hervey Bay via Moololaba,

Gasworks in Brisbane


We stopped in an Airbnb in Brisbane for about a week. We have 3 big projects on the go at the moment so it was all go for all our team. The main purpose of staying in Brisbane was so we could find a good place to work and progress our projects. A secondary purpose was to catch up with friends after a long time away and also to see a band called No Mono.

No Mono at the Tivoli

We first saw No Mono in Panama Festival in Tasmania in the middle of a forest in the dark. Their sound is unique and ethereal and suited the atmosphere of the place. They were the stand out best performance at the festival.

They were a project of Tom Snowdon of Lowlakes and Tom Iansek of Big Scary and when Jenni heard they were terminating the project and their last gig ever was to be in Brisbane at one of our favourite venues, the Tivoli, we had to go. This is not a band or a gig revue. If you want to read more about them click here.

We arranged to meet Gabe, a friend who was joining us for the concert, before hand and walk up to the venue. Our route took us through most of Fortitude Valley.

Music and fashion shops abound

The Valley, as it is known locally, is the best part of Brisbane for live music and entertainment.

Yea though we walk through the Valley

There was a big new change to the place since last we were here. The Fortitude Valley Music Hall just appeared out of nowhere. Looks like it has been there forever.

From their web site, ” The Fortitude Music Hall is the largest ballroom/theatre styled venue in Australia, with a 3,000 person standing capacity and a 1,100 seated capacity. We were inspired by some of the world’s most loved live music venues – from classic art deco theatres to larger clubs, while still paying homage to the iconic venues of Brisbane’s past. The Fortitude Music Halls’ prime location in the heart of Brisbane’s entertainment precinct and state of the art production make the venue a truly world class performance space.”

Some pretty impressive murals on the wall of this music shop.

BB King, Amy Winehouse, Ray Charles and Prince

The Tivoli

Originally a bakery the Tivoli was remodelled in art deco style in 1988 and is based on the Paradis Latin in Paris (1803) one of the France’s most famous cabaret theatres and named after the original Tivoli Theatre in the city that was demolished in 1965 to build King George Square.

There is a posh chair in the foyer so this had to happen.

Gabe and Jenni pre concert shenanigans

Yet again No Mono gave an emotion filled and faultless performance.

Tom Snowdon
No Mono


Jenni had to go to Europe on business the following week for a few weeks. Her flight left from Sydney so we boarded a plane and in 90 minutes we were there. A lot faster than we usually travel between Brisbane and Sydney.

Window seat view coming into Sydney

Jenni and I had one night together in Sydney before she fly off to Europe. I went to the airport and saw Jenni off then caught the train back to Carol and Greg’s house, who were very kindly putting me up for a few days while I stayed in Sydney and visited some clients. We’ve not been apart for more than a few days since we met, don’t remember much about the train ride back.

Bondi Beach

The next day was Sunday. Carol and Greg had a prior arranged get together with friends and generously invited me along. We had lunch in a Bondi Beach institution, Raw Bar Japanese restaurant.

Fellow countrymen and women may witness the t-shirt of awesomeness I am wearing. To everyone else it’s probably a mystery.

The guys were experts in this menu so I happily sat back and let them order. Because of this I tried miso eggplant for the first time and was very, very surprised at how delicious it was. It is difficult to make slimeplant taste good but this restaurant’s secret recipe rocks. Every dish was excellent. A recommended venue if you get a chance to visit.

Raw Bar Japanese Restaurant Bondi Beach

We tried to get into the executive suite of the very exclusive Bondi Surf Bather’s Life Saving Club, (one of our party is one of those aforementioned Surf Bather’s Life Savers) but there was a private party on. The club is officially recognised as the first Surf Life Saving Club in Australia.

Oldest Surf Life Saving Club in Sydney

So we went to the North Bondi RSL instead.

North Bondi RSL

Jenni landed in Europe ok. We both worked long hours over the next few days handing over to each other at the start and the end of each day. Before I left Carol, Greg and I went of for dinner at Teriyaki Boy in Balmain. I learned this restaurant has been going for many years and hasn’t changed. Jenni and I have been here a few times both with Carol and Greg and on our own. It is the master of home style minimalist Japanese cuisine. Of course we stopped for a drink or two on the walk back home.

Darlings bar on Darling Street. Darling place Darling.

On my last night in Sydney I went to another favourite restaurant, the Merton Hotel with Mark and Kathy. Home of Sydney’s best Goat Curry,

Mark and Kathy in the Merton Hotel

It was just before this meal started I encountered one of the biggest coincidences of this trip so far. It went a little like this…

We got chatting with the guy beside us over the greatness of the goat curry and whether we should order it (again). He said we should and showed us his empty plate for encouragement. When he was leaving he stopped at our table and asked me where I was from. It happens a lot with this accent. I said “Ireland” He said “Which part?” I said “Carrickfergus” He said “Fuck off! My cousin is from there, Larne Road!” I said “Whats their name?” and he said “Pat McCavana” I said “Fuck Off! Pat was my next door neighbour!”

He had visited them recently and shared pictured of Pat and her family. I shared stories of Pat and her deceased husband Harry who was a real character, one of the nicest people to have ever inhabited this small planet and one of my best mates. It was a very surreal.

By the way I ordered the goat curry (again) and it was excellent. Magically a pint of Guinness appeared for me. I tried to find the guy but he had left. Hope to bump into him next time. There’s a lot of catching up to do, a lot of stories about Harry and Pat, one such story involves Gin and Um Bongo but that’s for another day.

I flew back to Brisbane the next day. Found this in the airport. Ever wondered why Qantas has no U after the Q? Here’s why.

Queensland and Northern Territory Air Service

The plane I flew back on was a little bigger than this one. On the way out of Sydney I got this view out of the window. That’s Bondi Beach on the left. When Jenni and I stayed in Bondi a few months ago we walked round the coast almost to Clovelly Beach on the far right. It was a nice memory to have as I left Sydney for Brisbane.


I drove from Brisbane to Esk. Not right away, I had a night out in Brisbane with a few friends I worked with then drove to Esk the next day.

Night out with friends in Brisbane

As I write this I am in Esk. Esk is a small rural town about 100kms north west of Brisbane. I wanted to camp for a week and as it was the school holidays here I wanted to avoid any coastal camp sites which would be bedlam this week. I figured an, out of the way, not beach side camp site would not be as busy. I was right. We use Wikicamps to weed out the undesirable camp sites, Wikicamps users gave Esk Camping and Caravan park 4.5 stars. They were right. It is very lovely and was almost empty when I arrived.

Esk Caravan and Camping site
Chateau Walligan and the Mountain View

Esk is named after the River Esk which runs from Dumfries and Galloway in Scotland to the Solway Firth in England. It was established to harvest timber, mainly cedar, around 1850. Not having heard of sustainability then, by 1900 they’d exhausted all the cedar and turned to farming on the now open pasture.

The railway line reached Esk in 1886 when the line was extended from Ipswich. This railway line has been unused for many years and has been turned into the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail. This is a walking / riding track now extending over 160 kms, the longest rail trail in Australia, that is very popular with bike riders and horse riders.

Esk Railway Station
Poster at Esk Railway Station
Brisbane Valley Rail Trail
Trail Riders

Ever since I heard about this I have wanted to ride part of the trail. It was the draw of the trail, in no small part, that attracted me to this region this week. So I booked a bike from the very helpful Josie at Out The Cycling and on Saturday I rode part of the trail.

Brisbane Valley Rail Trail

At the start of the rail trail

My bike was delivered at 7am. I set off about 7:30. The temperature this day was due to reach 35c. I wanted to get as much distance as I could before it became too hot. The adventure reminded me of the start of our Vagabonding travels 600 or so days ago. Do we turn left or right? I had the same choice from Esk. As before, when we set off initially on Feb 5th 2018, I turned left. I had the idea of riding about 100kms, in the end I did about 50kms. It was enough in this heat. Here are some pics from the trip.

The concrete road ended very quickly. It was dirt and gravel for the rest of the trip. There were 4 bridges on this leg, only one of them was stable enough to cross. On all the others you had to go down into the valley and up the other side. This was the first bridge, it was a small one. The climb out doesn’t look steep, it was.
There was what looked like grazing farmland on both sides of the first part of the trail. The first thing I noticed was how dry it was, the second was how many anthills and cactii there were in the fields.
The next bridge crossing was bigger, the path was concreted underneath it and swooped under and around. It was much deeper than the first one. There was a warning sign advising to dismount.
The bridge constructions are fabulous.
The old railway bridges look like a bit worse for wear. They do make fantastic photographic subjects. I was fascinated with them.
A bit farther on I so=pied this lovely fella. A Kookaburra sits waiting for something to move in the grass underneath so it can get some breakfast. What was it they say about the early bird?
There are signs at points along the trail telling you how far you need to ride to get to the next town. I thought I’d snap a pic of one of these for interest for the blog. So here it is. Then I spotted these guys sitting quietly in the field…
A couple of kangaroos in the shade of a tree with the sign in front?
Then I turned around and on the other side of the trail, under a tree was this guy checking me out.
Turns out there were two of them, a mother and a baby Joey. They got spooked and bounced away.
When I turned back around to check on the other pair the one sleeping had stood up. It was a baby Joey too.
Pretty soon these too bounced away into the distance. It was a lovely moment.
Old railway signs lined the trail. I tried to work out what was the reason for each sign. What was up ahead that mean’t the train had to slow down to 30 kph.
Or 50
OR 40
The was the fastest I saw
I saw a lot of large nails on the track, they type they used to hammer the tracks onto the sleepers. I also started to notice a lot of things were made of railway track. The fence posts along the trail were mostly cut down railway track and the posts the signs were on were also railway tracks., hopefully you can see that in this picture of the back of one. The sign looks recycled also.

I didn’t see many on the trail, despite Josie from Out There Cycles telling me they were fully booked. A couple of riders on expensive looking orange Scott mountain bikes did catch up and over take me. Not hard as I was stopping every hole int the hedge to take a picture. This time I was filling my water bottle and they asked if I was OK. I said I was and they rode on.

This is all that is left of Mount Hallen station
Another reason I chose south was Cooragook Bridge. It looked interesting.
It’s a pretty impressive structure. All the bridges on the trail have the same basic design.
3 or fours pillars support the bridge spans. The pillars are either buried in the earth or in concrete foundations. Some are supported by cut off railway lines. You can see the huge nails in this picture
Between spans as monstrous thick wooden tree trunks supported on top of the pillars. I was impressed,
But it was just wood and susceptible to rot as I saw in the next bridge.
Anthills were everywhere, here is a well established one an a tiny new on just being started,
The ants build the hill around whatever happens to be there, here a tree in the middle of one.
Here is one in the process of growing over and through fallen branch.
The farming land changed from grazing land to what looked like bamboo on one side
To what looked like olives but could have been almost anything, on the other side.
Eventually I reached Coominya, about 25 kms along the trail.

I saw the riders of the orange bikes again in Coominya, they were heading back to Esk. I’m not sure what I thought Coominya was but it was small, a pub and a convenience store was all I saw. I rode around for a while taking pictures and then set off back to Esk.

Mural of Coominya’s cattle rearing past.

It was getting very warm when I headed back. I took much the same pics on the way back except the bike was pointed in the opposite direction.

Bike under the bridge again.

Oh and I found some horses, they came up to say Hi when I stopped.

There were lots of horses in farms around these parts.

By the time I got back to Esk I had ridden about 50kms. I had an idea I was going to ride onto Toolgowah and back, another 30 kms round trip. But I felt it was too hot for this. The last hour of the ride back was not in shade and it was hard riding in the glare of 35c heat. I decided a cold beer was a better idea so stopped my ride for the day. It was a beautiful trip, I really enjoyed it,

Coincidentally I recognised the two orange Scott bikes I saw earlier perched on the back of a ute in the caravan park and the two guys who paused and ask me if I was alright sat in chairs beside it. I said hi and stopped for a chat. Jim and Sue, as I discovered were their names, had ridden the 50kms trip as prep for the next days “Chicks who ride bikes” ride. Well Sue had ridden, Jim kept her company. Also spoke to them the next day, after the “Chicks who ride bikes” event. They said if you had turned right the ride is much easier going and much more interesting. However they also said they got hit by swooping magpies 5 times along the ride. I’ll take the dusty harder trail without magpies every time.

Wivenhoe Reservoir

I was also aware I’d been in this beautiful part of the world and not done any sightseeing. On Sunday I took a trip to the rubbish dump. Not very exciting I agree but the camp site has no recycling and the local rubbish dump does so I took all my recycling up to the dump. Then went off for an explore. First stop Cormorant Bay.

Cormorant Bay, where are all the Cormorants?
Here they all are flying in, late as usual.

I’d driven the road to Esk a few times. The drive takes you over the dam wall. One of the trips I saw a sign for a lookout at the spillway. I went there next.

Wivenhoe Dam Spillway

By the way it’s pronounced Wyvenhoe but spelt Wivenhoe. English is hard. It could also have been spelled Wivenhoe.

Did you ever stand on a bridge or a jetty or a harbour and look into the water to see if you can see anything? Initially there’s nothing. Then you spot a single fish, then your brain pattern matches that and you suddenly see a few more fish. And then you realise the place you were looking at was full of fish. Well I looked into the spill way and saw empty green water. Then I spotted a single thing, it Looked like a turtle.

Lonely turtle, or is it?

Then I saw a couple more on a rock.

Then lots more sunning themselves on another rock.

Turtle Rock

Then I saw a fish, then a couple of fish.

Couple of fish, are there any more?
Whats going one over here?
Turtles and fish swimming in perfect harmony.

An old man with a strange accent, who was the only other person on the viewing platform, told me you can sometimes see massive lung fish that swim by. If he was telling this story he’d probably say, I was talking to an old man with a strange accent today on the viewing platform,told him about the lung fish. Didn’t see any lung fish today though.

A bit farther around the road below the slipway there’s a place you can launch canoes for a paddle downstream.

This cormorant obviously didn’t realise it should have bee round in the bay
Neither did these guys


This trip has been teeming with wildlife. There a hundreds of green and yellow Lorikeets flying around, A koala came to visit me int e camp site. He’s a bit shy and wouldn’t show his face but he’s also a bit stupid, that’s not a Eucalyptus Tree!!!

Shy Koala

The skies are full of birds of all shapes and sizes. In the last camp site we were concerned about the road noise. In here its chittering and chrruping.


I saw a fabulous blue lorikeet. One of the guys in the camp site I told this too said usually when you see an odd coloured bird its an escaped pet.


In the night if I go for a toilet break, the grounds are full of tiny hopping, crawling furry creatures. It’s a pretty special place.

And finally, remember this guys from Hervey Bay? He came to Esk to visit me there too.

Red Deer Cafe Esk
Esk Trading Post
Esk, Elegant Junk

Esk has been an interesting place, I’ve enjoyed staying here. I’m here till next Saturday. There may be more Esk stories in the next blog.

Till then.

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