Tag Archive | Queensland

Not a Drop

Western Queensland Road Trip #4 Mitchell

There must have been good rainfall in western Queensland in the first half of 1846.

When the explorer Thomas Mitchell passed through that autumn on his fourth expedition, he found lush green pastures and bushland filled with wild life. The river flowing through the area was teeming with fish while birds were plentiful in the trees on its banks.

Mitchell named the river Maranoa, an aboriginal word meaning “duck egg”. His journal entries made much of the abundance of fresh food, which was a welcome addition to his expedition party’s diet.

When we visited Mitchell’s campsite on the Maranoa River 173 years later, the scene was very different. After six months with no rain, the bush was tinder dry and the river’s course was only recognisable by the wide expanse of water worn pebbles between the tree-lined banks.

The town of Mitchell, named after the explorer, is located downstream from where he set up camp. Where the bridge into town passed over the river, pools of water reflecting the bright blue sky were all that remained of the Maranoa.

The Neil Turner Weir, on the northern side of Mitchell, was built on the river in 1984 to store water for irrigation, aquatic sports and fishing.

With not a drop of water to be seen, there was no chance of a swim let alone a risk of flash flooding.

A local farmer we met summed it up in typically succinct outback style. “We’ve had no rain since November. It’s diabolical.”

Since our visit rain has fallen, but not enough to break the drought. Thomas Mitchell would not find fish on his dinner plate if he came to western Queensland now.

 

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Bush Ballerinas

Western Queensland Road Trip #3 Gubberamunda State Forest

The wide expanse of Grafton Terrace Road is deceptive. While the track’s surface looks firm enough, the red sandy soil can be slippery, at times grabbing the tyres of our car and forcing them in a new direction, as if they have a life of their own. Luckily we’re in no hurry, driving at a speed which still allows for control over the steering wheel.

We’re headed north east of Roma to Gubberamunda State Forest, looking for ballerinas in the bush.

For a long time we peer out of the car windows, seeing none and wondering if we’ve gone too far and missed them altogether. Then suddenly we come across not just one or two, but dozens on the side of the road.

Xanthorrhoea johnsonii, commonly known as Johnsons Grass Tree or Queensland Grass Tree, is native to Australia and grows all over western Queensland. In this part of the state forest a stand of grass trees numbering in the hundreds flourishes.

Growing up to 5 metres tall and living for as long as 600 years, grass trees are instantly recognisable by their rough trunks, often blackened by bushfires, and the tuft of long grass-like leaves springing from the top. Old dried foliage bends downwards creating a “skirt” around the trunk.

With a light breeze lifting the leaves, the trees seem like dancers ready to twirl and flick their ballet tutus.

The playful addition of sunglasses almost brings Cousin It to life.

Although the soil quality is poor and there’s been no rain for months, the bush is well and truly alive. Purple nightshade flowers stand out brightly against the red surrounds while circular ant hills are like tiny sculptures, each one precisely and perfectly constructed.

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Our attention returns the grass trees for, although we’ve seen them elsewhere in Queensland, the sheer number here is spectacular. It’s as if a whole company of dancers is about to take to the stage.

In the Bottle

Western Queensland Road Trip #2 Roma

In western Queensland, the landscape is punctuated by native trees with a distinctive shape. Brachychiton rupestris, commonly known as the Queensland bottle tree, has a bottle shaped trunk designed to store water in the dry climate.

A very unusual specimen has been planted in the garden at the Miles Historical Village.

Further west in Roma, the more typical type of bottle tree is celebrated.

With more than 100 years’ growth, the largest bottle tree in the Roma district has a circumference of 9.51 metres and a canopy spreading more than 20 metres across.

More bottle trees line many of Roma’s wide streets. In 1918, 140 trees were planted by local families in remembrance of their loved ones – soldiers lost on the battlefields of World War One.

All along the heritage listed avenue, plaques beside the trees acknowledge the service of each soldier.

These trees hold precious memories as well as water!

 

A Slice of Melon

Western Queensland Road Trip #1 Chinchilla

Australia is renowned for its collection of “big things” – there are more than 150 over-sized objects scattered across the country.

Goulburn, New South Wales, is the centre of a prosperous wool growing district and there you’ll find the Big Merino.

In the fruit growing region of northern Victoria is the Big Strawberry, on the Goulburn Valley Highway at Koonoomoo.

The Big Rocking Horse is located at Gumerach in South Australia, outside a wooden toy factory.

And the Big Galah, on the Eyre Highway at Kimba, South Australia, is located exactly halfway between Sydney and Perth.

Have you heard about Australia’s newest “big thing”?

In 2018, the vacation booking website Wotif launched a nation-wide competition, asking Australians to help select their next big thing. The finalists included a big kilt in Glen Innes, a big peanut in Kingaroy and a big tulip in Mittagong, all reflecting each district’s community or industry. The winner, voted by the Australian public as their favourite, was The Big Melon in the western Queensland town of Chinchilla.

With a warm temperate climate perfect for melon farming, Chinchilla is the centre of Australia’s most productive melon growing region. Every second year, the community celebrates their love of melons during the Chinchilla Melon Festival. Activities during February’s four day event incorporate everything melon related, including pip spitting, melon tossing and melon skiing competitions.

If you’re travelling on the Warrego Highway and you pass through Chinchilla during melon season, make sure you allow a little extra time. Once you see The Big Melon, you’ll be wanting some of the real thing.

 

From On High

An Australian Point of View #5 Mountains

One of my most vivid memories of my first year of high school is the day my geography teacher, a European immigrant, made a scathing comment about Australia’s mountains. How dare we call our main mountain range “great” when, in comparison to the European alps it was nothing. I remember, even at the tender age of 12, feeling indignant that he should feel free to criticise my country.

Since then, I’ve seen much of this land and explored many of its mountain areas. I know now that Australia, once part of the supercontinent Gondwana, is the oldest and flattest continent on Earth.

Norseman, Western Australia

Nullarbor Plain, South Australia

Tectonic movement and volcanic activity have shaped the upland areas and erosion by wind and water has worn them away; instead of the rugged craggy peaks seen in Europe and the Americas, Australia’s mountain ranges are characterised by highland plateaus and deep canyons, wide valleys and rounded peaks.

Cradle Mountain and Dove Lake, Tasmania

Mount Wellington, Tasmania

Porongurups, Western Australia

Bungle Bungles, Western Australia

Katherine River and Katherine Gorge, Northern Territory

Australia’s highest mountain, Mount Kosciuszko, reaches an elevation of just 2,228 metres above sea level.

Mount Kosciuszko, New South Wales

The Great Dividing Range, so maligned by my teacher, is the third longest land-based mountain range on Earth. It is 3,500 kilometres long and stretches from the northernmost tip of Queensland, through New South wales and into Victoria. At its widest it is more than 300 kilometres across. The range dates from the Carboniferous Period, making it more than 300 million years old. Surely the term “great” is well-deserved.

Where the mountains meet the sea, Cape Tribulation, Far North Queensland

Daintree National Park, Far North Queensland

Kroombit Tops, Central Queensland

Glasshouse Mountains, South East Queensland

Bald Rock National Park, Northern New South Wales

Alpine National Park, Eastern Victoria

Perhaps that teacher needed to study his geography!

On the Beach

An Australian Point of View #4 The Gold Coast

It’s not surprising that more than 10 million people visit the Gold Coast every year. With its subtropical climate, nearby national parks and beautiful beaches, theme parks, wildlife sanctuaries and dozens of restaurants and cafes, Queensland’s second largest city is one of Australia’s most popular tourist destinations.

For an overall view of the Gold Coast region, go straight to the top. At the Q1 Tower at Surfers Paradise there are observation decks on the 76th and 77th floor.  From a height of 230 metres it’s easy to see the 70 kilometres of beautiful beaches and 600 kilometres of canals which make waterfront living so desirable.

Back down at ground level head away from the popular tourist areas and you’ll find plenty of places where it’s not so busy. Go for a long walk, sit on the beach for a while or swim between the flags where vigilant lifeguards keep watch.

If you’re feeling adventurous, take a surf class or do some windsurfing.

Or simply take some time to relax. That’s what everyone else will be doing!

 

Born to Sing

An Australian Point of View #2 Redcliffe

There’s a lot to like about Redcliffe. This seaside suburb on Brisbane’s northern outskirts has a broad esplanade overlooking the calm waters of Moreton Bay. Redcliffe Jetty, the third to be built on the site, has heritage features copied from its forebears. There are plenty of cafes where cake and coffee can be enjoyed with an ocean view, but there’s no big city hustle and bustle to contend with.

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Perhaps this is what attracted Hugh and Barbara Gibb to the area when they emigrated from England with their young family in 1958. Three of their boys, talented musicians from an early age, formed a band to make pocket money and, in 1960 at the ages of 12 and 9, they were regular performers at interval during the Redcliffe Speedway. The boys were allowed to keep the money the enthusiastic crowd would throw onto the track.

Little did those people know they were witnessing the birth of one of the greatest musical acts of the 20th century, with eventual worldwide sales of more than 220 million records. After those early shows Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb went on to become The Bee Gees.

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Bee Gees Way, a 70 metre walkway on Redcliffe Parade, documents the amazing career of the brothers who called Redcliffe home. It celebrates their music with photos and video footage played on a large screen.

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Visitors are serenaded by the music of the Bee Gees as they view the group’s first recording contract, signed by their parents because they were underage.

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Two statues pay homage to the brothers, first as barefoot boys singing at the speedway, and then as a supergroup of the 70s and 80s.

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Barry Gibb opened the walkway on 14 February, 2013 and visited again on 9 September, 2015. Perhaps the last plaque on the walk echoes his thoughts about the walkway dedicated to the story of the Bee Gees.

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