Sunday, July 31, 2016

University of Queensland at Gatton

After our visit to Laidley, we stopped by the University of Queensland, Gatton campus again to check out the Environmental Park. We saw lots of old friends again, such as the Plumed Whistling Duck, above.


This afternoon we attended a concert that was fun and entertaining and a little odd. The venue was the local Anglican Parish church, St. Luke's. Today was warm, but the stone, unheated building was cold. We sat on very hard benches and enjoyed some good music.

There was a violinist, a pianist, a singer, and a second violinist for one of the pieces. The first half of the concert was piano. He was not amazing. He is technically very good, but there was a distinct lack of passion driving the music. His high point was a virtuosic pice by Listz, and even here you sort of got the feeling that he was a bit detached. Very good, but not inspiring.

The concert proper started kind of odd. Very informal. Our MC, the violinist, introduced his colleague the pianist, and told us about their travels. OK. But once the music began, he continued to run around fiddling with things. Adjusting the heat, turning on a microphone, adjusting things. When the first piece ended, he came back up front to start complaining about a noise from the PA system and asking how to turn it off. The pianist started out the side door of the church and had to be called back for the next piece. A real circus.

We had no programs. We were told there was not enough time to print them up and if we'd put down our address or email, we'd get them sent to us. ???

During the second half, in one piece of music, the violinist (very good, I might add), dropped his bow, caught it and after about one second, was right back in the music. This the sign a strong musician. Recovery from an error with no drama is the mark a real professional.

There was a piece with a vocalist with piano accompaniment and a piece with two violins. the second violinist was a woman in a dress with bare shoulders and it was clear that she was freezing.

All-in-all good concert in spite of its initially odd start and, at times, lackluster piano performance. We heard a very, very good violinist and lots of music we had not heard before.

Narda Lagoon

Just at the edge of the small town of Laidley is the Narda Lagoon. This is a small pool of water, apparently along a river that is low on water just now. There is a suspension bridge across it and a park adjacent.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Lake Dyer

We visited Lake Dyer and found the water to be very low. These rocks in the background would all usually be underwater. Sitting on them are the Little Black Cormorant, the Great Egret, and the Little Pied Cormorant.


Today we went back to the Lockyer Valley to see the town of Laidley and a couple birding spots nearby. Laidley has a nice little CBD (Central Business District, every thing gets abbreviated here).

Friday, July 29, 2016

Star Trek: Beyond

After a morning of watching the Democratic Convention, we decided to go to the movies this afternoon.

We drove over to the Grand Central Shopping Center to the theater. This theater is located on roof of the building. We parked down a level or two in the parking garage so we could spend a little time wandering the mall before the movie. We went up a level from where we parked and then, after shopping about a bit, we walked up a flight of stairs to the theater.

After the movie, we reversed course and walked down the stairs we came up. the entry to the hallway was closed. the gates were down. So we walked to the elevator and went to our floor and walked down the hallway to the parking garage. the problem was that every thing - everything - was closed. Gates down. Nobody in the building. We walked to the exit and it was locked.

We reversed course again and went back up to the theater and exited the mall. This was all pretty creepy. Then we couldn't find a way down to our level in the garage. I asked directions from a young man gathering shopping carts. Following his lead, we went back in the mall by a different entrance and down a level to a different exit that was open.

We finally got to our level in the garage and we were the only car there. Everyone else was gone. now you may think that we went to the late movie and all this made perfect sense. We went to the movie at 4:45 and got out about 7:00! On a Friday night in the main shopping mall in a city of over 100,000, it was a ghost town. Not what we expected to see.

Oh yeah, the movie was pretty good. Light on story, as expected. Long on special effects and makeup. Parts were a bit flat and parts were pretty good. Overall, a light bit of entertainment.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

A Bit of the Countryside

On our first trip to Gatton we took a back road and saw a few interesting things along the way.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016


Yesterday, we drove about an hour or so north up the New England Highway to the small community of Cooyar. There are several things in and around Cooyar that make it worth the trip.

Monday, July 25, 2016

A Little Quiz

Today we took the truck back to the dealer and had the windows tinted to keep it a little cooler and us a little less blinded in the summer heat and light. While this is happening we first went next door for a pot of tea. then we had a perambulation about town to do some window shopping. We stopped in at the theater to buy tickets for the upcoming Met Opera rebroadcasts and enjoyed the cool air and the exercise.

Along the way, we passed the the Portadown Hotel on Herries Street. You can see (I think) that on the  left end of the building is written, "Bar, Pokies, Food". Now, all our Australian friends will know immediately about "Pokies" and why it makes sense to see them listed along with "Bar" and "Food", but those following us from the US are likely to make a very different set of associations with that word.

For our US friends: Without consulting the internet, think about what you suppose "Pokies" might be in this context. then when you think you've sorted it out, look it up. Enjoy.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

A Drive in the Country

After leaving the Jumpers and Jazz Festival in Warwick, we took a different route back to Toowoomba just for grins and saw a different bit of the countryside.

Jumpers and Jazz

Sunday we drove to Warwick, about an hour south of Toowoomba, and took in the Jumpers and Jazz Festival.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Wyreema Wet lands, Toowoomba

We've had a couple down days around Toowoomba to get caught up on such things as groceries, liquor store, diesel know, the necessities in life. Today we ventured out for a bit to a couple parks in town: one we've visited before and one that was new to us. Let's start with the new one, the Wyreema Wetlands. Here we saw the Black Flying Fox. Actually, we saw a tree filled in approximately 100 of these interesting creatures.

Out Beside Hume Street

While driving from Wyreema Wetlands to the Water Bird Habitat for more fun and games, we came across a flock of Straw-Necked Ibis feeding in a field. We pulled over and had a look. The iridescence of the dark feather are quite striking.

See a larger collection of today's photos on flickr.

Water Bird Habitat

At the Water Bird Habitat we saw some Australian White Ibis bathing in the lake. It makes a great splash when they start their bathe. But we also saw a new bird.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

A Visit to the Gatton Cemetery

Gatton is a small nice little town in the Lockyer Valley about an hour from Brisbane and 30 minutes from Toowoomba. It is a farming community and, I suspect, it has always been a close knit place. We know this because of a tragedy that happened in the 1890's.

UQ at Gatton

Today we drove back out to Gatton for another visit. I learned that there is a place to do some bird watching on the campus of the University of Queensland at Gatton. There is a nice environmental park there with boardwalks, benches, and bird blinds. There were lots of birds to see, starting with the Plumed Whistling Duck shown above.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

More From the Main Range - Wallaby!

The Agile Wallaby is found in this part of Australia, and we're pretty sure we've identified this correctly. The pictures are not the best for identification, but they do show that we've actually see a "real Australian."

Birds at Queen Mary Falls - II

At the car park was a tea shop and out front was lots of seed scattered to attract the birds. And boy did it! First on the list here are the rosellas and parrots. Here is the Crimson Rosella having a nosh.

Birds at Queen Mary Falls - I

So, let's start with the birds slowly. I don't have photos of all twelve of the new birds that E identified, but I a got some of them pretty well. Above you see the Variegated Fairy Wren. Here is a couple preening on a limb near the picnic table where we had our lunch.


Yesterday we drove south and east to the Main Range National Park. There are a couple waterfalls here that are clearly much more impressive (at least at this time of year) that the Crow's Nest Fall I posted about earlier. Above is the Daggs Falls. The image is a bit dark from shooting into the sun, but it is, nevertheless, an impressive drop.

On down the road a ways, we came to an overlook and could see the beautiful clear skies and rolling hills founds here.

Then we came to Queen Mary Falls where we spent the bulk of the day. The waterfall is a nice one and well worth the short walk out out from the parking area. This 40 m drop makes for a pleasantly cool space to stand and view a very peaceful place. I could have stayed there all day.

On the walk back to the car park, we did see a nice rotting log with a deathly collection of mushrooms.

The next blog entry will show you why we spent all day here. The birds in the picnic area were great. E had an twelve bird day!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Rudd's Pub in Nobby

Several days ago when we visited Nobby, we stopped in Rudd's Pub for some lunch. I just got around to fetching the the photos from my iPhone.

Lake Annand Park

Today was mostly a man and mend day. We spent the morning washing Ms. Poppins to remove the layer of clay we put on her during the late adventure, grocery shopping, and getting some laundry done. As the sun was setting we out to one of the many parks here in town. today we visited Lake Annand Park.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Sunday's Adventure

Saturday we decided that Sunday would be a slow day. We'd just hang out and get some organizing done. Sunday morning it seems like we could drive to Crow's Nest and just sit in the car and look at the scenery and maybe a few birds.

If you've read E's entry already, you know it was more than this.

Why Children Should Study Science

Hello, friends and blog readers! I am having a very large glass of wine tonight in celebration of living to write this post. Stevie and I went on a 2.5 hour bush walk today through the Crow's Nest National Park. I'm certain he'll blog about that, but the thrill was sighting the nearly extinct Brush Tailed Rock Wallaby. He wouldn't sit still for a photo, but we saw him!

After the bush walk, we attempted to drive the Crow's Nest Country Route. Sadly, our GPS became hopelessly confused and led us into a washed out, deeply rutted, thickly muddy track that required four wheel drive and physics!

My friends have often heard me complain about Steve's driving, but you've also probably heard me say he's the best snow-driver I've ever known. I'm officially adding mud-driving to that list (short though it may be). After steering the car out of several spins, ruts, and slides, I completely freaked out when we arrived at a deep and muddy ditch across the road. Dr. Steve sized it up, took the wheel and saved the day. This was about 25% more adventure than I crave, and while not the most frightened I've been in a car, it earned a spot in the Top 5.

He's old, he's bald, but he's my HERO!

Friday, July 15, 2016


We are watching a race on TV now. It is a "V8 Ute" race: a race of pickup trucks with V8 engines on what resembles a Formula One track. Clearly, they are light in the back judging from the way they spin out all over the place. Otherwise, it looks a lot like a slow NASCAR race with all the steering wheels on the right.

Like Australian rules football, everything is just like in the States only entirely different.


Today is a slow is raining and cold. Of course, cold is a relative thing. Here, cold seems to mean anything below about 15C (59F). For example, in the Toowoomba Chronicle this morning is the article:

BREAKING: It felt like minus 0.2 degrees in Toowoomba this morning as freezing blasts of wind, light rain and cold conditions grip the Garden City.
Toowoomba Chronicle

Just for those of you don't pay close attention to such things: -0.2C = 31.7F. While technically, this is a freezing temperature, I'm pretty sure that nothing except the air around the thermometer was actually below freezing.

On the other hand, I still see kids out and about in shorts, and azaleas in bloom. We had planned to attend the Camellia show today but decided against it due to rain and wind.

The thing to remember is that Toowoomba and Brisbane are about the same distance from the equator as Miami, FL. Toowoomba gets a bit colder since we are not on the coast.

We've learned that part of the difference in the way we perceive cold that aside from stores and malls, the places we've been in mostly don't have central heat and air. It is handled on a room-by-room basis with units that mount in the wall. This is what we saw in Botswana also. When it doesn't get cold very often or for very long, no one invested in heat. We warm the sitting room when we are in it and turn off the heat where we go to bed. Same for the bedroom. The rest of the house is not heated.

Certainly part of this approach to heat is due to the fact that little of the year is cold. But the economy is not helping. Starting July 1, electric power rates have gone up 20%! This is a really big jump and has to hurt. We've been asked by out hosts to be mindful of the heat and watch our usage. Absolutely we will.

This morning we went to the movies to Ghostbusters and had a great time. We went early to avoid the  crowds and it worked just fine.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Lake Apex and Freeman Wildlife Sanctuary & Parkland

Purple Swamp Hen

After our trip past Gatton yesterday, we decided to go back and spend some time at Lake Apex and Freeman Wildlife Sanctuary. There's a large cultural center there. This seems to be a library, tea room, visitor's information center, and spaces to let for various occasions.

Chamber Philharmonia Cologne

Last night we attended a concert by the Chamber Philharmonia Cologne, a chamber music ensemble who did a very good job playing Vivaldi, Bach, Handel, and Borne. There was an excellent violinist and a flautist to play the solos. The flute player was outstanding.

The concert was in St. Stephens Uniting Church. The Uniting Church of Australia was established on 22 June 1977 when most congregations of the Methodist Church of Australasia, the Presbyterian Church of Australia and the Congregational Union of Australia came together. The particular church we were in was formerly a Presbyterian church, as we could tell from from the marble memorial on the wall for those list during the Great War 1914-1918.
  The first violin player also doubled as a singer and she beautifully sang  a piece by Handel, and in the encore, a piece by Chopin. The solo violinist is 26 years old and quite good.

We sat near some very friendly people where were eager to share a program with us. Like everyone else we've met here, Australians are tremendously friendly and helpful. Australia is a great place to be and the music was the icing on the cake. 


Today we ventured south from Toowoomba and visited several places. First was Clifton with a Baobob tree on main street (the only street). Then came Allora with it's great post office.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Jackie Howe

Jackie Howe left more in his wake than shearing records -- he created a fashion statement still found in Australia. Howe was so muscular (his hands were the size of small tennis rackets) that the sleeves of his shearer's shirt restricted his biceps. Howe cut out the sleeves and part of the underarm area, creating the Jackie Howe singlet, a top found on sale throughout Queensland.


So, here's a source of aggravation for you to consider: getting things on your calendar in the right time zone.

When in London back in '14, I forced my iPhone to set items on the calendar in Eastern Time so I could keep up with things back home. Now that is no longer needed (yeah!), so after putting a couple items on the calendar and having them show up on the wrong day (14 hours off), I dug into this and sorted it all out. I finally have all my calendars and cameras in the same time zone.

What a pain.


Eager to enjoy of new truck, we rode out to Jondaryan yesterday. A small community about 30 minutes west (more of less) of Toowoomba, this is an interesting place. Our first stop was at St. Anne's church. A small community church that has service only once every two weeks.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Our Wheels

Against her better judgement, E finally agreed to be in a photo with the new (used) vehicle we bought. I think it is pretty dandy looking (and of course it looks even dandier with E at the wheel).

We Have Transportation!

Today we went to Cars Galore to finalize the purchase of our vehicle. We got home from our jaunt to the Carbarlah Cemetery too late in the afternoon (it's winter remember and the sun sets early) to get good photos. I'll get them in the morning.

We bought a Ssangyong (yes, that's two S's) Actyon Sport turbodiesel truck. We're really happy with it. Going to haul our stuff and us in style. Cruise control, automatic transmission, air, and all the wheels reach the ground in pretty much the same plane. You see, I find that pretty amazing since there are four wheels. Three points determine a plane so have four points in the same plane is kinda special alignment.

Oh. Sorry. Forgot that you were there. Just kinda grooving on the geometry of a vehicle that is planar.

Anyway, we learned that car insurance in Australia is way cheaper than it is in the US. Including the currency conversion, we are paying about 20% of what we pay in the US for a lower deductible. And boy are the Australians friendly! We talked with a young woman this morning to buy insurance that was really great. Helpful, patient, knowledgeable, and friendly. RACQ is a great place to do businesses.

Cabarlah Cemetery

Those of you who have followed our blog for a while know that we love us a good cemetery. So many stories are told in a kind of haiku of chiseled stone. Even the stories told in boring bland verse are interesting. Every life...

Today was a buy day with several high points. In the afternoon, we visited a cemetery in Cabarlah, just north of Toowoomba. This is a unique graveyard in our experience. There are five clearly separated sections for Anglicans, Presbyterians, Catholics, Lutherans, and non-denominational. We've never see a cemetery remarked in such a way. Each section has a sign tell what sort of believer is interred there and there is a space between them and the next flavor of church-goer.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Got to Keep the Threats Straight

There were reports of spiders (plural) "as large as dinner plates".  This was, of course, an exaggeration..

Police said only one spider had "invaded" the campervan and the real concern was the 2 metre long scrub python that liked to curl up on the back seat if the doors were left open.
Come on people, get your threats sorted out before calling the police!

The Japanese Gardens

Today we visited the Japanese gardens on the Toowoomba campus of the University of Souther Queensland. This is on the south side of Toowoomba not far from where we are living. A Sunday morning in a quiet and peaceful place was a real delight.

There were several rocky streams flowing into the reflection ponds making for pleasantly noisy places to reflect.

The bridges are all named in the garden. This is named Ko Ko Kyo or the "Stepping Over Rainbow Bridge". So today, I walked over the rainbow bridge to be with E over there on the bench.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

A First Attempt At Birding (updated)

Today we spent a couple hours in the Toowoomba Waterbird Habitat. It is a modest (19 acre) park about four minutes from the house. We've arrived in Australia in time for breading season, and the Australian White Ibis (a.k.a. the Sacred Ibis) were in full breeding plumage and were clearly frisky on their nests. In fact, there was lots of squabbling about who was going to be in what nest with what partner.

Most Amazing Sight

It is 6:30 PM here and in July, being winter, it is already dark. We live on the south side of the city center but are by no stretch of the imagination out in the country. When I look toward the center of town I see glow on the horizon. But not much.

Much higher in the sky is the moon. We now have a waxing crescent at about 25%. A bright sliver but not an overwhelming source of light in the sky.

But as you stand the yard for a few minutes, you realize that with your hand to block the nearby streetlights, you can see that there is a background to the many stars you can see. The Milky Way! When was the last time you stood out at night, in town, with the moon up in any phase, and saw the milky way!?

There is now a plan forming to drive out to the edge of town (as we get used to driving about on the left) and see if we can get some photos of this amazing sight.

Friday, July 08, 2016

In Toowoomba At Last!

We have finally made it to Toowoomba and gotten settled in. Today our hosts left on their own journey, and we unpacked. We made an excursion out for some supplies and had a nice dinner.

We're in a lovely, quiet neighborhood here in Toowoomba in a really great house. It's going to be a fun four months. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

We Have Arrived!

We arrived in Brisbane yesterday (July 5th) and got to our hotel. We are staying in Toowong, a suburb of Brisbane. We walked the block or so to the village and scoped out the Coles (grocery) and had lunch at Nando's (including a bit of Peri-Peri). After picking up a few items at the grocery for noshing, we headed back to the room. Not surprisingly, we crashed soon after.

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Arkansas and Beyond

Saturday we made our goodbyes to our extended family in Arkansas, both two- and four-legged. We had a great time there, petting cats and humoring Holly the dog, and exploring a little of Northwest Arkansas.

We now sit in a hotel room across the street from LAX gathering our stuff and strength to go back across the street to do battle with the bustling crowds and quasi-stationary lines. Our plane leaves tonight (July 3) at 11:30 PM PDT. This means it will already be July 4 in Australia (Brisbane is 17 hours later than LA) and since our flight is 14 hours long, we nearly skip the 4th altogether, getting no more than eight hours of it in the air before we cross the International Date Line and fly into the future.

So, for the first time, we are preparing to be real "time travelers" and board a plane to the future. The past is not forgotten, of course. We have spent the last couple months visiting with friends to "seal in" the memories that we take with us. As Antonio asserts in Shakespeare's The Tempest, "What's past is prologue."

We carry more baggage with us that what we are checking at the counter this evening.

It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.
William Shakespeare