Brisbane is an attractive, stress free, and friendly city where we began our months long journey across Australia. The Brisbane River winds through the city, the capital of Queensland on Australia’s NE coast 14 miles from the Pacific Ocean. The city has a modern and classy appearance with high-rise office buildings in city center and modern suburban apartments and homes with impressive views of Brisbane’s skyline.
We’d booked a quaint B&B, Annie’s Sheldon Inn, which proved to be ideal; located in center city, across from a bus stop with free service, and a ten minute walk to Queen Street Mall, a busy pedestrian mall that stretches from City Hall to the Victoria Bridge over the Brisbane River.
Bats falling from the sky
Australia was in the midst of a blistering heat wave when we arrived the first week in January. The papers and TV reported mid 40 C (110 F) temperatures across the nation, with the hottest locations in South Australia with temperature reaching 48.6 degrees C (128 F). The heat was so oppressive, bats were falling out of the sky. One town was left with the unenviable job of having city workers scoop dead bats into plastic bags and deposit in containers for disposal (burial? incineration?).
The kitten sized bats, which are protected indigenous animals, are Fur Headed Flying Foxes. They swoop through the air and roost in trees, hanging upside down, screeching like banshees, flapping their wings to keep cool. On earlier trips, we had seen flying foxes hanging from bare branches they’d stripped for food. They leave messes in parks, on sidewalks and cars and are generally considered pests. Quite nasty looking, actually.
After orienting on free inner city buses and ferry for a couple of days, we ventured out to explore the city. It was a sweltering 41 degrees C, and most people were huddled in air-conditioned buildings or sweating in the shade in parks. We walked 30 minutes in the stifling heat to the Botanical Garden along a bend in the Brisbane River.
We leisurely strolled past lagoons, ponds, and groves of tropical plants, flowers, and trees.
The gardens are home to heron-like white ibis with black heads and tails and curved black bills. Ibis are interesting, ancient looking birds like something you’d see carved on Egyptian temples or tombs.
Goanna on the trail
We came upon a goanna along a wooded path, who looked like he was deciding if he was going to dash into the bushes or let us pass. We tip toed around him; he didn’t move, but stared at us with steely eyes.
The Botanical Garden ends in a mangrove trees along the Brisbane River.
South Bank Parklands
We picked up the free ferry at Riverside Center near the financial center with outdoor cafes, bars and restaurants on the river bank. The ferry took us to the South Bank Parklands, a pleasant place to stroll and enjoy views of the city across the river. The parklands feature flowering gardens, ponds, sandy beached swimming lagoons, and winding walkways shaded with flowering bougainvillea.
One of the most attractive sites at South Bank was the Nepalese garden with wooden walkways across ponds that led to a teak Nepalese Pagoda. The pagoda was a spiritual center with an open-air medication room, ceremonial bell and beautiful carvings on walls, doors, and pillars.
A prominent landmark in the Parklands is the Brisbane Wheel, a giant ferris wheel near Victoria bridge and the city’s cultural center.
The complex has several attractive buildings with theaters for performing arts, a museum, art gallery, and state library. The cultural center was very impressive. Admission was free. We wandered through the museum which had interesting exhibits about Queensland history and culture, and most importantly, it was air conditioned!
While we were enjoying lunch at an outdoor Italian cafe, water dragons lurked nearby to see if we would drop crumbs. Steely eyed like the goanna, they stared at us blankly, still, until I dropped bits of mushroom, onion, or green pepper from our pizza. They gobbled them up but didn’t blink at pizza crusts however, picky fellows.
People in Brisbane were friendly and helpful, from the bus driver who dropped us at the door of our B & B to the host and hostess, Ruben and Gloria, and a delightful British chap, Rod Crane, who charmed us with tales of his adventurous travels, biking and swaging (sleeping on a bedroll with no tent) all over Australia, including the remote Northern Territories and York peninsula in northern Queensland. Rod has taken a camel caravan across the Sahara with a band of Berbers, and sailed on freighters and fishing boats on the south Pacific. He travels very light, one small bag with a aluminum bike, and a backpack.
Next: Fraser Island on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast
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