<!-- August 12, 2003 -->
On the train from Brisbane to Nerang. 7pm.
My feet ache. But I'm exhilerated.
Sometimes I forget that laziness begets laziness. What was I thinking - "I don't like travelling" ? Utter crap.
I'm trying to write inbetween scary patches when it seems the train loses all power, plunging us all in darkness. None of the passengers are panicking so I reckon we're NOT about to die. I keep writing...
I had thought there would be nothing special about Brisbane, the capital of Queensland. The "River City". Often thought of as a backwater city. I would argue that it's one of the nicest cities I've been to.
The South Bank, where I disembarked from the RailLink train from Nerang, is a long strip of gardens along the (you guessed it) south bank of the Brisbane River.
However, it is possible that my opinions are skewed by the absolutely perfect weather today. Cloudless, warm, but with a slight breeze to cool me as I walked. But it's also immaculately maintained. Not a scrap of garbage.
I started at the Maritime Museum (but I didn't go in because, really who cares?) and walked under the Arbour, overflowing with pink and purple flowers arching overhead, as it threads its way along the riverside path.
It led me to the quaint Stanley Street pedestrian strip at the quiet Visitor's Info Centre and picked up a couple of really good city guides.
Taking them with me, I decided to read them out in the sunshine, settling beside Paul's Breka - the artificial beach named after a milkshake drink that I actually had for lunch.
I continued on my way, following the meandering path through the "Rainforest Walk" and on to the Performing Arts Centre where I impulsively got tickets for the preview performance of "Flight!" on Friday.
On I walked. Across the Victoria Bridge, over the Brisbane River and the highway to the city centre. Victoria Bridge leads right to the Queen Street Pedestrian Mall. I window-shopped a bit before going to the Coles Express to pick up my lunch. I was pleasantly shocked when the grocery clerk actually TALKED to me! She wanted to know where I was from, how long I was here and even wished me a pleasant stay and safe travels!
I trucked my lunch of a "breakie" bar and Paul's Breaka (in no way related) iced coffee over to King George Square, just in front of City Hall, and sat on a park bench.
If South BAnk is the spot for tourists (although I saw some suits having a walk through the Arbour) then King George Square is where all the business folk go to eat their lunch and read the paper. A bike courier lay sprawled beside his bicycle (push bike), munching on his lunch and awaiting his next assignment. A mother talked to her friend as her two kids in cowboy hats climed onto the kangaroo statues. No less than two Japanese tourists snapped that photo in the time I was sitting there.
The square is filled with lovely statues, although most of them are local celebrities, such as the first governor of Queensland.
I was reading my Lonely Planet guide, trying to follow the suggested walking tour when I read that the Art Gallery had its last free tour of the day in 15 mins (at 2pm) so I hurried back over the bridge to try and catch it. I made it in time but course, the only tour at 2pm was for a paid exhibit that I wasn't interested in seeing. Sigh.
No worries. Plenty to see, still.
Since I was there anyway, I just hopped over to the Museum and spent a couple of hours there.
A really good museum, I learned much about Queensland. I learned that I'd like to go Sapphire fossiking in Sapphire, gold prospecting near Rockhampton, Opal mining near Quilpie. I found out that the first lifeguards were in the Gold Coast. That sugar cane is just a grass that has been bred to be increasingly sweet and that its importance as a crop led to the introduction of foreign "natural" defenses/pesticides like a certain horny frog which has not helped the insect problem, but has thrived with no predators and inundated the surrounding lands.
I learned more about giant prehistoric varieties of wombats, Tasmanian devils and goannas. Got a little freaked out when the giant goanna exhibit turned its head to look at me and flicked its tongue out. Was relieved to discover it was NOT a revived prehistoric lizard but a mechanised replica.
Then I was off to the main (north) bank of Brisbane again to bless myself with the knowledge that the City Hall clock tower observation deck closes at 3pm and costs $2 anyway AND that its gallery is closed for renovations until mid-October. Never mind, who wanted to see that anyway?
Onwards and upwards - to Anzac Square to visit the eternal flame memorial and then to St. Steven's Cathedral (the first in Brissie) after which I happened onto and dropped into an art gallery on Creek St that had closed at 4pm. Grr.
At least the Royal Botanical Gardens are open all night. A short walk brought me to the gate and I explored. While no where near the size or beauty of the Sydney RBG, it's still quite nice and has a quiet rainforest walk and a small mangrove section that would have been a great experience had it not been dwarfed in size and beauty by the mangrove forest at Homebush's Bicentennial Park outside Sydney.
Nonetheless, it was certainly time well spent, wandering around. I discovered the QUT (Queenslnd Uni of Technology) which was a beautiful campus to explore at night. And it almost runs into the Queensland Parliament Buildings, a gorgeous building and a busy walkway!
I decided to take the long way back to Victoria Bridge and the South Bank train station as I had some time to kill before the next train. I'm glad I did.
The Mansions (old mansions now converted to shops and professional offices) are a gorgeous part of Brisbane's Historical Walk, as is the International Conrad Hotel which was once the Landowner's Office. It's supposed to be one of, if not THE, grandest hotels in Australia, with no two rooms the same. Of course, I also passed the old Treasury Building, now the Treasury Casino: two buidings of magnificence sitting on the edge of the Victoria Bridge by the river. I'd like to go in there sometime...
And then, finally, I caught the train back to Nerang... after getting some directions from a pedestrian waiting for the same light to change. He just randomly struck up a conversation with me - another pleasant surprise!
I very much enjoy Brisbane and the people. I was surprised to enjoy it so much, and I'm glad that I'll be back. Despite my busy day, I didn't do half what I wanted! It's just that there's at least a week's-worth of stuff to do... my kind of place!
living out of a backpack
Sunny, 22 degrees
Tales of a Female Nomad By Rita Golden Gelman