Friday, 30 January 2009

Toowoomba to Warwick

Leaving Toowoomba, we had a wonderful drive south. Warwick was our next target destination, less than 60 miles away, but with so many townships and tiny villages en route we knew it was folly setting our sights too far ahead.
In fact just outside Toowoomba is the Bull's Head Tavern, possibly the oldest building in Queensland.
It was on this route that we had our first taste of the sheer vastness of the landscape in Australia. We all know it's a big place, but it is reflected in the immediate landscape, there are fewer boundaries marked, less buildings etc.
We popped into a small village named Nobby. Having read about two of her illustrious offspring; Arthur Hoey Davis, a turn of the century Australian authur who adopted the pseudonym Steele Rudd, after whom the Rudd pub is named and Sister Elizabeth Kenny who was a phenomenon in the field of nursing. Try following this link to see what I mean.
Nobby may be a tiny village, but it did rate a School of Arts!
And some delightful farm dwellings on the outskirts.
After just a short drive south we paused at Allora - because it looked charming. The massive hotel - so many Australian towns have similar gigantic hotels, we can only assume that it speaks of the travelling style of yesteryear, when towns were days apart and folks just had to stop somewhere each night.
We were attracted by this bank as well.
Oh! ...and this charming little church.
Approaching Warwick, we couldn't avoid references to Jackie Howe. You have to appreciate that Liz had an uncle of that name hence the significance to us. He was a champion sheep shearer in the days prior to mechanisation. Such men were local heros and Jackie boasts a commemorative sculpture...
...and a Motel named in his honour. In 1892 he sheared 321 sheep in 7 hours and 40 minutes using hand shears. The record stood unbeaten until 1950 by which time powered shears were in use. Talking to modern sheep shearers, they reckon that 200 sheep per 8 hour day is expected of a good shearer. So Jackie was quite a champion. On the day he broke the record he was wearing a navy blue sleeveless vest that became the shearers' badge of office and was called a 'Jackie Howe'.
Warwick the town [pop: 12,562], lies on the banks of the Condamine River, 130 kilometres south-west of Brisbane and is the administrative centre of the Southern Downs Local Government Area. The surrounding Darling Downs have a strong agricultural industry for which Warwick, together with the larger city of Toowoomba, serve as convenient service centres.
A bit of history:

[Patrick Leslie and his two brothers originally settled in the area as squatters, naming their run Canning Downs. In 1847 the NSW government asked Patrick Leslie to select a site on his station for a township, which was to be called 'Cannington,' although the name 'Warwick' was eventually settled on. Land sales were held in 1850, and the first allotment was bought by Patrick Leslie. The telegraph to Brisbane was operating by 1861. The 1870s were boom years for this new town. In 1871 the railway reached Warwick, a brewery was built in 1873, then a cooperative flour mill and brickworks were completed during 1874.
We had a browse around the town. There are lots of grand buildings dotted around and several that just have a charm of their own.]

The Warwick Green Belt, on the banks of the Condamine river features a Sculpture of Tiddalik the mythical frog that drank all of the fresh water in a renowned Aboriginal Dreamtime story.
Just one more building that we found attractive. They are the Law Courts.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Toowoomba "the Garden City"

Toowoomba (nicknamed 'The Garden City') lies in South East Queensland, Australia. It has an urban population of 95,265 and the city boasts a university and cathedral. It is Australia's second largest non-coastal city.
Toowoomba's colonial history traces back to 1816 when English botanist and explorer Allan Cunningham arrived in Australia from Brazil and in June 1827 discovered 16,000 km² of rich farming and grazing land bordered on the east by the Great Dividing Range and situated 160km west of the settlement of Moreton Bay. Thirteen years later when George and Patrick Leslie established Toolburra Station 90km south-west of Toowoomba the first settlers arrived on the Downs and established a township of bark-slab shops called The Springs which was soon renamed Drayton.
Towards the end of the 1840s Drayton had grown to the point where it had its own newspaper, general store, trading post and the Royal Bull's Head Inn, (which was built by William Horton and still stands today). By 1858 Toowoomba was continuing to grow and had a population of 700; three hotels and many shops. In 1860 a new municipality was proclaimed.
From our perspective, Toowoomba had a very neat town, with a fine collection of well preserved old buildings and some beautiful parkland and rose gardens. Well named, 'the Garden City'.
It was here that we saw our first Queensland Bottle Tree. More luxuriously foliated than the Baobob tree but with the same chubby shape.
There was obviously an event involving 'hi-boy' vehicles. There were several in evidence. We spotted this one parked near to our motel.
The climate in Toowoomba is far more temperate than anywhere to the east. The reason is that the city (Australia's largest inland city) lies upon the Great Dividing Range. This made for beautiful cool evenings and a wonderful panoramic view from the picnic viewing point.
Another claim to fame for Toowoomba is the museum to Cobb and Co. This company's name will pop up repeatedly throughout our trip as they were the main line of communication for mail, packages and people from the 1850s through to mid-1920s. There was a TV series in the early 60s starring Peter Graves as Christopher Cobb - I remember it, but most of you will be too young to do so.
Ironically Toowoomba does feature a great deal in the history of Cobb and Co. But it does have some of the best restored coaches from the famous company and many that are just representative of the era. We spent a happy morning there browsing the exhibits and chatting to the friendly staff. A few of the exhibits were fun. We particularly liked this one showing an advertisement for canned mountain air. "The contents will retain their beneficial properties indefinitely if the open tin is left in as clean airy place".
Finally the museum were displaying a collection of hand made "shoes as art". This wonderful collection was the work of Jackie Orme Ward and Adrian Lockwood of the Pendragon Boot Company.

In the town we were particularly attracted to just a few places and the photographs follow:
The Art Deco theatre.

A small park containing indiginous sculpture.
A sale area for windmill pumps.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Brisbane - Lone Pine Sanctuary

What better introduction to this post!
The adverts say, "Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane, Australia, is the world's first and largest koala sanctuary, with over 130 koalas. Cuddle a koala anytime, handfeed kangaroos and encounter a large variety of Aussie wildlife, all in beautiful, natural settings." So what do we think...
Well there certainly are Koalas.
The layout is functional, immaculately maintained and amusing. There are enclosures entitled, 'Kindergarten', 'Cubby House', 'The Boys', 'Ladies in Waiting' and others we can't remember.
...'The Retirement Home.'
As the blurb says, you can cuddle a Koala.
But the Koalas themselves often find it a bit too exciting ...and have to rest.
There are other animals in the sanctuary including Wombats...
Kangaroos - some with joeys
and some with tourists!
...and wallabies which, we were informed, can sit on their tails, whilst kangaroos, having much thicker tails have to hold them permanently aft. 'Not a lot of people know that!'
This emu was wandering freely in the Kangaroo enclosure.
But Dingos must be kept on a lead!
But the stars of this show are undoubtedly the Koalas.
There is little left of the day, but just time for a quick visit to see the panoramic viewing point overlooking Brisbane City.
The Planetarium is an interesting building and makes a fine backdrop
...for the wonderful statue of Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, the Russian 'Father of Cosmonautics' who died in 1935.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Brisbane - Australia Day

Australia Day is an official public holiday in every state and territory of Australia. Celebrated annually on 26 January, the day commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove in 1788, the unfurling of the British flag there, and the proclamation of British sovereignty over the eastern seaboard of Australia.
British sovereignty isn't the main point of the celebrations in modern Oz. However it is traditionally the day when new citizens are welcomed to the country and there are loads of parades...
The above photograph shows Ms Penelope Wensley, Governor of Queensland, inspecting the Band.
There were speeches, sideshows, music and street entertainers by the score. But it wouldn't be Australia without a little beach activity. Just across the bridge from the main Commercial and Business District (CBD) the Brisbane River has a man-made beach complete with golden sands alongside the riverbank. The two stretches of water are separated by a wall or groyne and the beach section was full of families enjoying themselves.
The population of Brisbane were out in force to show the flag; and some very inventive showings of the flag there were. Here are just a few shots of the crowds around the waterside, downtown.
Plus a couple shots of Brisbane's big wheel.

The river by night, looking towards the CBD.
And the fireworks.
Coincidentally, Chinese New Year fell on the same day this year and so an extra splash of colour floooded around the town centre.