Tag Archive | Travel Photography

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.

purple nightshade

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.

 

Canada’s Best

Canada #45

“What was the best thing about your trip?”

We’re often asked this question when we return from a holiday and it’s always difficult to give just one answer. After five weeks in Canada, here are the things we loved best.

The Best Party 

The Best Airbnb View

Vancouver, from our 21st floor apartment – by day,

at night,

and early in the morning as the cruise ships arrived at Canada Place.

The Best Water View

Pitt River

The Best Mountain Views

Sky Pilot and Co-Pilot, Coast Ranges, Squamish BC

Fitzsimmons Range, Whistler BC

The Best Wildlife Encounters

chipmunk, Whistler BC

raccoon family, Mount Royal, Montréal QC

and the squirrels, who were everywhere!

The Best Food

20 flavours of hot chocolate, enormous ice cream sundaes, chocolate pizza! Even the ceiling was all about chocolate at Chocolato, Montréal QC

The Best Garden

Jardins Gamelin, Place Émilie-Gamelin, Montréal QC

a free community garden with a cafe, space for games, music and family activities

and several themed gardens, educational for both adults and children

The Best Adventures

For me, a birthday trip to Niagara Falls

For Glen, EdgeWalk – 356 metres above the ground at CN Tower, Toronto ON

So many wonderful experiences in a truly amazing country. Canada, we’ll be back!

A Loo With a View – The Canadian Edition

Canada #44

Canadian loos have wonderful views

of mountains, sea and sky.

Coast to coast, from west to east,

these views will satisfy!

~

In summer at Butchart Gardens

where flowers are celebrated,

they are blooming everywhere –

even the loos are decorated!

Butchart Gardens, Vancouver Island, BC

~

A gentleman in his bathroom

could always sit and ponder

the view from his bathroom window

of the mountains over yonder.

Craigdorrach Castle, Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC

~

At beautiful Deep Cove

you’ll find this deluxe facility.

Pitt River is very scenic

but the toilets aren’t so pretty.

Deep Cove, BC

Pitt River, BC

~

Before you take a gondola ride

have a toilet stop.

There are no handy bathrooms

on the mountain top!

Sea to Sky Gondola, Squamish, BC

~

A toilet block amidst the trees –

its location is quite practical.

With running water everywhere,

you might need to be tactical.

Brandywine Falls, BC

~

Old buildings at the village

tell tales of long ago.

This outhouse has seen better days.

It’s only there for show.

Black Creek Pioneer Village, Toronto, ON

~

A long walk around the islands

might leave you feeling needy.

With a bathroom halfway round the track

you won’t have to be speedy.

Toronto Island Park, Toronto, ON

~

When the Blue Jays are in town

and you go to see the game,

learn about baseball history

in the Washroom Hall of Fame.

Rogers Centre, Toronto, ON

~

This pretty little restroom

is very well disguised.

It’s only when you walk around

that you can see the signs.

Montmorency Falls, Quebec City, QC

~

So when you visit Canada

and you need to use the loo,

it’s highly likely it will have

an amazing view!

 

Revisit other loos with fabulous views:

A Loo With a View – The Kevtoberfest Edition

A Loo With a View – The English Edition

A Loo With a View – The Cruise Edition

A Loo With a View – The Hawaiian Edition

or search #looswithviews

Two Buildings in One Day

Canada #43 Montréal

Two buildings – one we plan to visit, one we find by chance; one religious, the other administrative; both located in Old Montréal.

Notre-Dame Basilica, with its twin towers named Perseverance and Temperance, dominates Place d’Armes square. It’s only mid-morning but already there’s a noisy crowd outside, indicative of the 11 million people who visit every year.

Once inside, everyone is silenced by their surroundings, their gaze drawn upwards. The vaulted ceilings and sanctuary glow, richly ornamented in jewel colours and gold leaf.

Wooden carvings, paintings and statues fill every space. The stained glass windows portray people and events from Montréal’s religious history.

Not far away on Notre-Dame Street is Montréal City Hall.

Here there is no crowd. The doors are open and visitors are warmly welcomed. A free guided tour starts in the Hall of Honour where portraits of the city’s Mayors are proudly hung. In the Council Chambers, walnut panels line the walls and more stained glass windows depict scenes of Montréal.

Outside, on the sunny deck where staffers gather in their lunch break, there are raised garden beds. Meant to provide a relaxing pastime for council workers and also to encourage bees and insects, they’re overflowing with summer crops ready to be donated to food banks.

Two buildings – both designated National Historic Sites of Canada; both keepers of stories of the city and people they serve; both worth a visit.