Posts Tagged ‘Wivenhoe Dam’

Travellers’ tales – lots of bits

January 27, 2011

Mt Glorious and Mt Nebo; the RSL; the washing.

We’ve been incommunicado –  terribly busy doing nothing much.  Well now – on Sunday we had a lovely drive around Mt Glorious (or a glorious drive around Mt Lovely??? – nope it was the first thing).  From Moggill we went up via Brookfield Road, across the slopes of Mt Coot-tha and through The Gap to Samford Road.  From the village of Samford the road climbs up through beautiful bushland to Mt Glorious.  The first restaurant we stopped at turned out to have a wonderful view and equally wonderful food.  We debated whether it was the same cafe we knew from decades ago. (It wasn’t – that one has been appropriated by bikers who love the winding mountain roads.)  

across the bushland we could see bits of Brisbane, and beyond that to Stradbroke (or possibly Moreton) Island and its white sand cliffs


cloudscapes from the Mt Glorious restaurant

From the deck we watched a pair of peewees jostling for supremacy with some birds with greenish backs and bright blue around the bill.  I took a photo of them, but if you can see any birds in it you are doing really well.

There really is a bird in this picture - look for a flash of blue perched in the tree.

We identified them later from memory – apparently the Blue Faced Honey Eater is fairly common and known to be aggressive about territory.  That clinched it for us. If you like puzzles, I also have an un-picture of one of the peewees.

Clue: it's almost exactly in the middle of the shot - black and white, like a mini-magpie

Further along the mountain road we paused at one of the walking trails and went down along it into the bush.  The path was nearly washed away by weeks of massive thunderstorms, and the footing was not really safe for a guy of 86, however game.   He was pleased to find a stick to walk with.  It started out as a joke (because the walking trail has a picture of a walker with a stick) and turned into a useful idea.  Not far beyond that, up the road, we were turned back by police who had closed it off  ’till further notice’ – and the implication was: for a long time.  Heavy machinery was working on it, again trying to sort out landslips and damage from fast-flowing water. 

We walked around the wonderful Westridge lookout on Mt Nebo

map of the area around Westridge Lookout

where you can look out to the west and see for miles.  Lake Wivenhoe was well visible and also some other water, which we decided must be some flood water that has not yet drained.

Looking westward from Mt Nebo

On the way back down the mountain we stopped to change drivers.  (A biker paused and asked if we were OK – impressively kind of him, and also good bush-craft).  There by chance we heard an absolutely overwhelming number of bellbirds. A cacophony of chink-chinking sounds dominated the high canopy of the trees. (Or rather it turns out that what we heard was the Bell Miner – a bird commonly called the ‘bellbird’ – while the real bellbird is much rarer and also much lower in pitch.  Dang.)  My mother used to go into raptures over this sound when we were little.  She would make Dad stop the car (never an easy feat) and we all had to get out and listen painstakingly in a hush of silence for just one stray ‘chink’. – The bird was truly rare then, but now they are on the increase, it seems, and one can hear them all over the place. 

What’s wonderful here in Queensland is that it’s so warm (but not over-hot, except ocasionally) and one can walk around the place in the bare minimum of clothing.  In my case, undies, short skirt and cotton top – and sometimes just my togs when I am about to jump into the pool.  Here we are as I write, at a quarter past nine at night and the doors are wide open with a little breeze blowing through.  Utterly pleasant.
On Tuesday (25th) we went down to the coast and spent time with Mum – we did this by leaving her to watch TV and tootling off to Main Beach to jump around in the waves.  We had forgotten to bring sunscreen, and I couldn’t bring myself to ignore that and risk it.  So I accosted a charming young couple with a litre tub of the stuff: they were kindly generous, of course.  And I was so very grateful – even if we hadn’t burned my guilty conscience wouldn’t have allowed any pleasure in cavorting so fecklessly. 

Main Beach, Southport. At last I get to swim in the surf.

– great fun, even on the falling tide with the Lifesavers’ exhortations squawking, amplified over the waves. (‘You! Guy in the wet green shirt! Get your mate back  in.  He’s not safe out there.’  Someone must have taught these guys psychology.) –  To my great delight the old changing rooms are still there – I can’t remember them ever not being there – but they must be from the sixties at the latest and probably much earlier.  The style is minimalist – yellow stucco outside, bare rafters and concrete floors, wooden benches and room temperature showers within. And that unforgettable childhood smell of salty wet concrete.   I do hope that nobody important notices that they are still there – that way they may survive another fifty years or so.  

Then we came back to Mum’s place and took the octogenarians for a toddle, two doors down the street to look at a unit (the Australian word for a flat or an apartment) being raffled for charity.  It’s called an RSL Prize Home .  Worth well over a million quid at current exchange rates it is an entire third floor (with a lift) overlooking the Broadwater.  The huge spaces were all done in a severely trendy black and white decor.  Andrew said he would die if he tried to live in it.  I’ve never heard him so clear cut about anything before – must be getting emotional in his old age. Then just as we were about to set off for Brissy there was a phone call from myexcellent uncle Ron (ex used-car salesman, but so much more than that – a great guy).  (You better believe it!)  So he came round for tea and biccies, which was great fun.   Still the same livewire – but he claims, incredibly, to be turning eighty in July.  He tells us that – your chances of winning a Prize Home are the about the same as your chances of being struck by a meteorite.  We wondered what your chances were of doing both. 

I’ll be sad to miss the knees-up, but have to be back in UK by then.

 I am currently involved in a challenge: trying to get a pair of shorts and T shirt of Andrew’s clean – he helped out with some of the flood cleanup, and now they stink appallingly.  Napisan hasn’t helped all that much, nor a strong wash, so now it’s a case for hefty bleach. Being a real woman in Australia is all about the washing! My sister-in-law has a front loader, but uses top-loader powder, which can’t be right.  She is impressively well-equipped with detergents, stain-removers and bleaches, though.  Wonderful storage-space in this modern house!

Here we are having highs of around 30C; it’s Australia Day.  Flags are flying, very American-style.  Dave has put one up on the balcony – it looks great.

(26th January 1788 was when Governor Philip took possession of the entire continent of Australia on behalf of the English Crown.  A tricky thing to celebrate nowadays of course, but they manage it, with lots of inclusion of aboriginal people and language. We are never taught about the ways in which it was all a consequence of Britain’s losing the War of Independence and thus Britain needed somewhere else to send their surplus convicts, political dissidents etc.) 

The Eureka Flag - I didn't see any of these so I'll put one up here.


Australian flag in real life

I quote: “The flag of Australia is a defaced Blue Ensign: a blue field with the Union Flag in the canton (upper hoist quarter), and a large white seven-pointed star known as the Commonwealth Star in the lower hoist quarter. The fly contains a representation of the Southern Cross constellation, made up of five white stars – one small five-pointed star and four, larger, seven-pointed stars.”  (from Wikipedia – that fount of useful knowledge – I love the word ‘defaced’, which sounds heraldic and technical.)

Sounds of the flood

January 14, 2011

Wednesday – 12/01/11
After all those days of pounding rain, we woke to a sunny, dry morning.  The news was that we had no electricity, the low-lying shopping centre down the road at Bellbowrie inundated in the night, and the river was yet to peak.  All day yesterday the house had been full of the sounds of the rolling news programmes – many repeats of the Toowoomba flash flood, and hourly repeats and updates of Anna Bligh’s news briefings.  Now, without TV or radio, there is a big silence in the house.  The frogs have stopped their rain-croaking.  The church hall has a sign out the front: ‘Flood Refuge Centre’.  At midnight last night we stood on the balcony and looked across a little valley – Kangaroo Gully Road – to lights at the primary school.  A steady clopping, like rain on a tin roof, sounded from the main road along the ridge.  There must have been twenty or thirty horses being moved to higher ground.
Helicopters move purposefully across the sky – thump thumping on their different notes.  Dave likes to spot Black Hawks, Chinooks; even a Sea King goes over.  An orange-yellow one is the RACQ emergency chopper, and a blue one says Channel 10 News.  The SES (State Emergency Service) has its own as well. 
In this strange peace, the Sunday sound of a lawnmower rises up.  A man across the road is mowing his grass.  No-one can get to work from here, or shop, and the central business district seems to have closed down.  News comes to us sparingly, in Maddy’s voice, as she summarises what comes through on her iPad.  The car radio is our main source.  The waters are supposed to reach 6.5 metres tomorrow.  Today they are at 3.5 – tomorrow, they say, is D-Day.
Dave plays the Muppet theme on the piano, and later Ross picks up his guitar.  Old fifties and sixties pop songs are his favourite – Harry Belafonte and ‘Island in the Sun’ – and some Sai Baba songs. 
Wednesday night:
We dine by candlelight, on a marvellous Thai prawn curry cooked by Varni.  The prawns are out of the freezer, still iced solid, but even so it seems sensible to eat up the seafood.  We talk about Dorothea McKellar’s poem ‘My Country’, and when it was that we first realised what it meant.   The solar-powered garden lamps are useful in the loo overnight, so that Grandon, night-waking, won’t get lost or stumble around dangerously with candles.  Typically thoughtful and inventive of Dave.  And so, an early night for all.  I find that one can read perfectly well by the light of a candle. 
We are rocketed from sleep about eleven by an unbelievably thunderous pounding roar close overhead – it feels like bombs going off at least.  The overwhelming sound has me pulling up blinds and fumbling at the door-catch in a blundering sleep-waking urgency.  It sounds like Armageddon, but it’s a helicopter landing.  It lands in a space marked out by police car headlights, over at the primary school, and from the balcony I watch figures moving to and fro in the bright lights.  Most are wearing the generic SES orange outfits.  When the chopper’s engine stills, the clip-clopping sound floats over from Moggill Road, the same as last night.  Can it really be horses two nights running?  There are big equestrian establishments down towards the ferry, and down along Prior’s Pocket Road, but it seems unlikely.  Maybe I’m just hearing some kind of distant frog.
Back to bed.  The chopper putters off soon, and fairly quietly, but leaving an enveloping stink of aviation fuel over everything.

Thursday morning early – glorious sunshine: a true Australian blue, green and gold day.  The gardens and and bush land, well watered, are as fresh as fresh.  Cicadas are buzzing quietly and the blinds click in the light breeze – an irregular, metallic sound.  The birds sound relaxed – skreeking, gurgling, twittering.  From here, the floods hardly exist, and we are marooned.  Without the voracious omnipresent images from TV and radio, they easily slip into the background.  Occasionally a helicopter passes overhead, bringing reality into focus.
Living in someone else’s house, and so competent as they are, one can’t help feeling a bit of a passenger.  Even the car radio wouldn’t work when I switched it on.  Varni is sweeping, tidying, watering pot plants around me, sitting on the sofa.  She won’t accept help.  We go to look at the flood levels – at Moggill Ferry, where one of the holding cables has broken; then at Bellbowrie shops which are well under water.  Drifts of people are out walking about with their children and their dogs, taking photos and marvelling at the power of the water.  We know that Wivenhoe Dam is releasing massive quantities down its spillways, and much of  Brisbane is going under.

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