Thursday, September 30, 2010

Australia Fair!

We're here in Brisbane and the flags were raised for our arrival!  After a rapturous welcome from daughter and grandsons at the  airport it was home to their house for a rest and a cup of tea. 

As usual my daughter's tiny town garden was filled with beautiful plants.

We were introduced to the new addition to the family.  Miss Molly is the sweetest cavoodle with silky soft fur, melting eyes and the most affectionate temperament.

The feline members of the family were on hand to renew acquaintance, far more affectionate than on the previous visit, due without doubt to the fact that they now have to compete with Molly.

Meet Thomas ...

... and Jack.

On Thursday we loaded up the car and set off for the Glass House Mountains.  Kieran was delighted to be on his way ...

... and Molly wasn't going to take any chances on being left behind.

"'When James Cook sailed past in 1770 he noted that the cluster of mountains on the south-east Queensland hinterland resembled the glass houses in Yorkshire and named them the Glass House Mountains.  He was referring to large conical furnaces used to make glass, not glasshouses where plants are grown.  Smoke from
fires lit by Aboriginals looked like the smoke from the furnace fires."  *

Checking out a little history of the mountains.

The boys discovered the playground when we stopped at the Information Centre. Shoes were discarded forthwith.

Happiness is a ride on a "flying fox"' (in South Africa called a "foefy slide"')

Who knew that swinging required such fierce determination?

In the meantime I discovered just how fascinating and photogenic eucalyptus trees can be.

First sighting of Mt Coonorin

"The volcanic plugs of the Glass House Mountains rise majestically above the countryside north of Brisbane like giant stone sentinels, their great age contrasting with precise rows of nearby pine plantations that have replaced native forests.  The mountains are the remnant cores of volcanoes that spewed out lava to form the surrounding ranges 25 million years ago.  Once liquid rock, today they are ancient, solid symbols of a past era" *

Mt Beerwah

More about the mountains tomorrow!

* Steve Parrish - South-East Queensland - A Discovery Guide

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Land Down Under

My heart is filled with joy and the reason for this is that we're leaving for Brisbane on Sunday.  The last time I saw these particular Australians was two years ago and they were starting off at a new school.

On that visit we had a glorious time discovering all the sights with the grandkids - they lived in Melbourne before moving to Brisbane so it was fun to explore everything with them.

We did the O'Reilly's Tree Top Walk and fed the parrots afterwards.

Slightly nervous at  the privilege of having an exotic bird perched on our head.

Marvelling at the flocks of jewel coloured rosellas covering tree branches and feeding stations.


 Living in South Africa, I'm used to seeing "the Big Five" but it was fascinating to see animals which Australians take for granted, not only in a sanctuary or zoo setting, but in the suburbs as well;  Koalas in the eucalyptus trees in front of my daughter's home, night visits from possums and great flocks of sulphur-crested cockatoos flying over the park.  On our first night in Brisbane blood-curdling screams outside the house convinced us that someone was being attacked.  It took some persuading for us to believe that the source of the screams was fruit bats swooping through the warm evening air.

We visited some interesting shops, such as this one in Canungra where you could buy biker gear, get a tattoo or body jewellery or even go the whole hog and purchase a motorbike. The boys were greatly intrigued by shop and customers.

 A day at the  beach right in the centre of the city.  How unusual is that?

Catching a water taxi to visit the Queensland Art Gallery and Museum on the South Bank  was something I really enjoyed.  We don't have a particularly good public transport system in Cape Town, so hopping on and off water taxis, buses and trains was quite a novelty and what a pleasure not to have to look for parking space. 

Strolling along the river walk after spending a day in the tranquil City Botanic Gardens.  I love how the three cities I've visited in Australia, Sydney, Melbourne and now Brisbane, are all built around the rivers twining through them.

 Yachts at anchor in the Cleveland Marina

Cleveland Lighthouse

Memories of childhood playgrounds.

So, at the moment it's the usual scramble whenever one is going away - juggling the demands of work, especially with our time away coinciding with the end of one month and the beginning of the next.  Invoices to be emailed, VAT returns and payments to be made, shopping to be done for ourselves and for the younger daughter who's going to take care of house and garden.  In between that, the more enjoyable consulting of books and compiling lists of all the things we wanted to on our last visit and didn't have time to get to.  Roll on Sunday.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Squabble of Seagulls

Early evening on the Promenade really is the golden hour and if you find seagulls endlessly fascinating then there's no better place to study avian behaviour.  I looked up collective nouns on the internet to try and find one which describes a gathering of these birds and what I found was "a quarrel" or "squabble" of seabirds., which seems rather apt, I think.

 There's a rigid "pecking order" (pun intended) amongst the birds.  Find a perch on one of the concrete bollards ...


... fiercely defend your perch until forced by a larger and more vociferous bird to vacate it.  Pass the ousting down along the line.

Settle down with a triumphant shriek and begin the whole process again.

Adopt an elegant pose against the setting sun, always keeping a beady eye on passing humans who might provide a tasty snack.

Fly away in alarm at too close approach of humans.

Out over the sea towards the setting sun.  Or, more realistically, to relocate to other places where the pickings are more plentiful.

Leaving the promenade to human enjoyment.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Wine and Roses

Another visit to another vineyard, this time to De Grendel Farm, situated on the Tygerberg Hill.  As you gaze across the lake and the vineyards it's difficult to believe that you're just half an hour's drive from central Cape Town.  

 I think this must be the only winery where the view stretches as far as Table Mountain and includes glimpses of the city and seaboard.

 I've always wondered why you often see roses planted at the end of the rows of vines and research (thank you, google) reveals that the flowers are susceptible to the same types of infection as the vines and thus give warning of diseases which may affect the vines.  Another reason and the one I prefer, is that the combination of the roses and vines is an aesthetically pleasing and inviting sight.

Walk down the steps to smell the roses ...

... walk up the stairs to taste the wine

To wander through the delicate tracery of the hibernating vines is to marvel that seemingly dead branches conceal such hidden potential..

This is a farm which has been owned by the same family for three generations and which now forms part of a larger fynbos conservation area. Driving down the hill from the winery, past open fields, you are conscious of the effort being put into protecting the endangered "renosterveld"  - literally "rhinoceros vegetation".  There are several explanations for the name but the one I like suggests that  it derives from the Black Rhino which once roamed these areas.  The high fertility of the soil  makes the land vulnerable to cultivation, hence the "endangered" label.

I can enthusiastically  recommend the sauvignon blanc and rose wines produced by the estate as a memento, however fleeting, of time out from teeming city life.


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