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Hello

Welcome to this blog, the story of a great big Australian adventure. It documents my travels, life in Australia, and a subject close to my heart – environmental conservation. 

Out and about with a visitor

Out and about with a visitor

The week before last we had a visitor to stay, for nine days. Most of that time he was working his wotnots off, but we did get out a bit. He escaped the usual first-time-visitor orientation, in which I produce maps of Brisbane and region; then Queensland; and finally the whole Australian continent. It's easy to underestimate distances here; some people only vaguely know where Brisbane is on the map, let alone the Sunshine and Gold coasts. Even getting to grips with the state capital is tricky since the mighty Brisbane River wiggles its way to the ocean in a most disorientating manner.

The best way to see Brisbane is from a CityCat. The first high-speed CityCats, four of them, were introduced in 1996. Two more were added the same year, and another two in 1998. From 2003, the CityCats really took off: in 2006, 5.9 million people travelled on the network; and by 2009 there were 14 vessels in operation. In October 2014, in time for the G20, the 20th CityCat was launched. The fleet has helped to put Brisbane on the tourist map.

Old and new at Bulimba ferry terminal

Look at all those cranes!

I sometimes wish I had a job in the CBD. I can't think of a better way of travelling to work than on a ferry in year-round fabulous weather. If you've recently got off a long-haul flight, it's rather pleasant to sit in the breeze and mindlessly, if necessary, watch the city unfold before you.

We took our visitor, an engineer and inventor, downstream to Hamilton North Shore, which seemed apposite. There is a cafe from where you can observe a residential city transforming into a working port. But we stayed on the ferry and sailed upstream to South Bank for a long lazy lunch in the Queensland Art Gallery's delightful cafe, adjacent to the 'signature Watermall and sculpture gardens'.

Story Bridge, Brisbane

Another bit of the same water dragon as top, at QAG Cafe

My favourite fountain, at Queensland Art Gallery

I have never been to QAG and not found something interesting. On this day I thoroughly enjoyed Columns by Zilvinas Kempinas, which 'contrasts the sense of permanency created by its classical colonnade with the ephemeral and now almost obsolete material of VHS tape used to construct it'.

Patrick Thaiday's Zugub (Dance machines), featured objects used to animate narrative dance in Torres Strait Island performances featuring loud singing and drumming. And there were pleasing pots.

The following weekend we took our guest further afield – to the Glass House Mountains. Having missed his orientation, he followed our route on the iPad. We turned off the Bruce Highway at Caboolture and drove to Maleny via Woodford, where we had a coffee stop. The rookie navigator suggested a back-ways route off the Kilcoy-Beerwah Road a few kilometres west of Peachester. I was wary. My friend and I have tried on two or three previous occasions to find cross-country alternatives to main roads in this neck of the woods, but have always found that, since our map was produced, they have become no through roads. It's happened enough times now to arouse my curiosity, not to say suspicions. There were no 'private property' signs, so how come public access has been removed? We did come upon a wonderfully rickety-rackety bridge, however, before we had to turn back.

 
 

 We lunched in Maleny, in pineapple country.

It was a hot and sunny day, but the visibility wasn't good: the mountains were mistier than ever before from the best lookout on Mountain View Road. Further along, we visited the Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve to observe rainforest preserved. It was quite late in the afternoon and the mosquitos were too numerous not to mention. In rapidly fading light, sunlight shafts permitted otherwise impossible photos, but it was difficult to identify either birds in the canopy or Pademelons (small rainforest wallabies) in the undergrowth.

 
 
 
 

Mary Caincross Reserve is a 55-acre remnant of rainforest that used to cover the Blackall Range. It is an ecological island, with no corridors to other remnants nearby. It is likely that other species once lived here before becoming extinct, and that animals currently inhabiting the forest may be threatened in future. It is one of few subtropical rainforest remnants surviving in optimum conditions; that is, flat, relatively deep basalt soils and plentiful rainfall.

We saw Brush Turkeys, Wompoo Fruit-doves and a Golden Whistler: we heard Eastern Whipbirds and a Green Catbird. We saw several Red-legged Pademelons, one of which had a juvenile suckling (right). The female Pademelon is an extraordinary creature in that, if she becomes pregnant while she still has a joey in the pouch, the new embryo is put on hold until the pouch becomes available. This type of reproductive system is known as embryonic diapause. She can produce two types of milk at the same time, one suitable for a developing baby and one for a maturing joey. What a clever girl.

On our visitor's last day, we took him to look out over the city and surrounds from Mt Coot-tha. You could barely see the sand blows on Moreton Bay's islands or the Scenic Rim of mountains towards the New South Wales border, but the River's winding path and wide bends were clear enough. It was the weekend, and there were busloads of… how can I put it… eccentric tourists, who we soon wanted to put behind us. We drove down the hill to the Botanic Gardens for some lunch, before having a wander. I've decided I am a foliage person, not a flower person.

A gas ring…

Dusky Moorhens and chicks, right

…and a koala?

Our guest flew home that night. As ever, it had been a pleasure showing someone round even an exceedingly small part of a huge continent.

We need to talk about syngas

We need to talk about syngas

One of those 'world's gone mad' weeks

One of those 'world's gone mad' weeks