Tuesday, September 22, 2009

First Day of Spring

Yesterday was blazing hot in Brisbane. We walked around downtown ... sister, brother-in-law, mother, and me; nephew went off with his cousin. This is a very family trip, and I have been the happy recipient of all-in travel planning. Everyone has been very patient with my shutterbug-itis. I have been less patient with my own inability to keep up with the photo processing.

The second to last stop in Brisbane was a wonderful bookshop called Archives that advertises itself as having over a million books; it inhabits the building pictured above. Almost worth moving to Brisbane for. They claim to have a web site, but it is broken right now. It did seem a little pricey, and one of the online reviews had the same opinion. Not sure how much used books cost in Australia. I ended up buying two souvenir tomes, one a 1925 geography of the world with an old school library checkout form pasted in the front page, the other a small 1941 book of reminiscences on Australia intended for servicemen on duty. The title is Australia: My Country, and the author is Charles Barrett. A very sentimental volume. I was fretting over whether to buy it until I saw that one of its short pieces is an essay on climbing Mount Tamborine before the road was put in.

It turns out that I am a day ahead of myself in this report. Because two days ago we went up to Mount Tamborine which looks out over the Gold Coast as it shelters a national park and a little tourist town of artsy shops. Just before the town, though, we were witness to three young men who through themselves off the mountain, albeit attached to gliding devices that lofted them high. The guy with the sail device ... alas, I do not know the terms ... was ghoulishly wrapped head-to-toe; I assume that it must get cold at the heights which he quickly attained. The fixed wings guys drifted downward until they found a thermal over which they spiraled back upwards. I do not have the risk/thrill personality type, but even so I could not help but fantasize at how exhilarating the ride of the first fellow must be. It seemed like he was in airliner country up there. How peaceful how serene, how utterly terrifying.

After that we settled into the little town of Tamborine with its crafts and tourist gee-gaws. I bought a bar of convict soap that said "Gentle after 50 lashes". Now it is stinking up my bag. I also bought a couple of non-local pieces of colorful glass that will go in the garden. And we settled in for some chocolates and coffee at a nice little place where the espresso machine was out of doors. The young woman confessed that she never guessed where people were from because they would invariably be offended if she guessed wrong. People are such twits.

From Tamborine to the Knoll, a part of Tamborine National Park. My sister is a high muckamuck in the Queensland government land use administration. She has moved through the ranks, and knows so much about land use, climate change, endangered and invasive species. Always a delight to tour with an expert. We had lunch in the Knoll, and the Brush Turkeys and Magpies harassed us. Speaking of birds, Ibis are as common as muck ... they flocked in great numbers in the cooling pools of water surrounding the power plant next to Swanbank where we took the steam train yesterday.

Leslie and I took a brief jaunt down a trail to see the rainforest ... some unidentifiable brown birds about the size of robin were mucking into the mulch, actually burying themselves, and paying little attention to our approach. We left them to what we presumed was their worming. We would have taken a much longer stroll ... rainforest is unendingly repetitive, and thereby meditative ... but my game and hearty near 80-year-old mother does not hike with quite the vigor of years gone by. She is game, and interested. But the body does place a limit.

On the way down the mountain, we were witness to some ancient car, overfilled with humanity, that was blowing smoke and bout to collapse, its last mission cut short by overly optimistic modern drivers who decline to admit that there is, in fact, a limit to everything.

So back to Brisbane. Quite a city, and one, by my sister's report, that has exploded from sleepy town to urban giant in the space of a couple of decades. The ancient buildings were nestled into the mushrooming modernity. Leslie is moving from a middle-aged skyscraper to one of the latest shortly ... I want a photo of her new office from where she will reign over Queensland's exceptionally rich land resources.

Mother struck up a conversation with another old lady in the food court. She was a bushwhacker, one of 10 children, raised and resident in the outback. In Brisbane on some errand. I did not hear the conversation, alas, but Mother was fascinated and the two hit it off like old friends while I dug into a massive Japanese rice bowl.

We did a little public transit in Brisbane ... a catamaran ferry down the river, and later a bus back from downtown to the car park in South Bank, a beautifully developed park and play land. Public transit is the best cheap way to know a place.

My only regret in our five hours of rapid deployment is that I did not get much of a chance to photograph the fabulous bridges of the Brisbane River. I'll look for post cards instead.

Heading to Sydney today despite its being in the middle of a red dust storm. Domestic flights seem to be still on track. If for any reason I get bumped, there are no refunds, so I am going to hang on until they chase me out of the airport if it comes to that. I have about 26 hours on the ground in Sydney, and I want to make use of every second.

Photos by Arod. Falling behind on Flickr, but will keep after it. Not likely to upload anything until after I return from Sydney.

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