Page 148: Still in brisbane . . . but where to next?
  Surprise . . . more friends pop in to see us.  
  Left to right: Neil, Tarranne and . . . well, if you don't know by now. Neil, why the solemn look? Tarranne, you could look
happier too. So could I, for that matter. Yet we were all happy but only Pam looks it! Correction, she looks merry.
Thanks to Dakota for operating the shutter. Again.

Tarranne works at the same company where Pam used to work in Tamworth. She and husband, Neil, were travelling north for an all-too-short holiday with their caravan. It was great to see them, albeit for only one night.

We, on the other hand, have plenty of time (as far as we know) so we're staying in Brisbane for another couple of weeks. The Newmarket Gardens Caravan Park is very pleasant and it's no hardship at all staying a little longer.

The 'facilities', as toilet and shower blocks are known, have been beautifully decorated as the photos below show . . .

  Doesn't this look so much nicer than bare concrete blocks?  
  I assure you I don't make a habit of taking photographs inside toilets, however this wall is beautifully decorated.
What is it? The claw belongs to a bush turkey, the feathers of which are behind the leaves.
  This is the side wall of the camp kitchen depicting a cheeky kookaburra stealing the 'snags' from the barbie.  
  Farewell Alice  

After several years of tolerating endless verbal abuse, Alice, our Garmin Quest GPS has been retired. In her place we have a new Garmin, also called Alice. The new Alice responds to voice commands (when it suits her) so I'll have to be careful what I say to her.

While in the city the new Garmin tunes in to traffic broadcasts from a special FM transmitter and warns of any hold-ups. It displays the speed limit for the road on which I'm driving . . . though it gets it wrong frequently enough to be untrustworthy. It warns me when I exceed the speed limit. It shows me - well in advance - a diagram of the next intersection, including how many lanes and which one I need to be in. It not only tells me where to turn, but the name of that road. It adopts a male voice to warn me when I approach a school zone or red light camera. Unlike 'old' Alice, it has a touch screen which is very bright and clear.

The problem with the old Garmin Quest was that it was no longer supported with updated maps. The new Garmin Nüvi comes with four updates a year for life, at no additional cost. I was also able to download a free mapping computer programme which uses the same maps as the GPS and also updates four times a year. This is really useful as I can plan journeys in advance on the big screen, perhaps checking out some roads with Google Maps to see how wide the road is and whether the surface is sealed or gravel - useful to know in advance when towing a caravan. When I'm satisfied, I download the route to the GPS.

Like everything electronic these days, the new GPS contains so much that you almost need a university degree course to learn it all. But then, much of it isn't really necessary. Why do I need a currency converter or a calculator or foreign language phrase translator? Yes, this GPS has these and much more!

  Back to the park . . .  
  The park has many of these Sacred Ibis birds as well as ducks, pigeons and one or two Bush Turkeys, all scavenging for scraps.  
  The back of an ibis's head resembles laddered black pantyhose.  
  See what I mean?  
  What a Whopping shopping centre  

Pam had seen a mention somewhere about a large shopping centre at a place with the somewhat unlikely name of Chermside. Needing supplies, we decided to pay it a visit; it wasn't very far from where we are staying on the north side of Brisbane.

Internally this shopping centre is about the size of a small African nation but a million times richer. Add the car parking area and you have something the size of the Kalahari Desert. Having wandered around it, totally lost, for some time we decided to seek out Woolworths and do the boring food shopping that we’d gone there to do. Naturally, Woolies was at the opposite end of the centre to where we’d parked the car – about seven kilometres away, I’d estimate. So having filled our trolley with enough food to supply the aforementioned African nation for several years, we stopped off at Dan Murphy’s Bottle Shop for some essential supplements then headed back to the car. I decided we’d avoid kilometres of busy walkways packed with retail enthusiasts by walking around the outside of the buildings in the fresh air, sunshine and - as it transpired - biting wind.

Yes, it was my idea, I admit it and on the face of it, a good one. However, after an hour of dragging an overloaded, unstable and extremely belligerent supermarket trolley up and down kerbs, over garden beds and around buildings, we asked a passing lady where we could locate the National Australia Bank, opposite which we'd parked the car. We weren’t even in the right area! Eventually we found the car, packed our goods and rapidly-thawing frozen foods into the back and set off, not for ‘home’ but for a branch of Johnny Appleseed’s Garmin GPS stores. Yes, that’s his name no matter how unlikely it may seem. I wanted a pouch for the new Alice to sit in when I removed her from the parked car. I wanted one with a belt loop so that I wouldn’t need to overload my already overloaded pockets. Mr. Applecore, or whatever he's called, only had a leather pouch without a belt loop. Bugger! And he wanted $30 for it which I thought was daylight robbery. Anyway, when the price was reduced to $25 I decided I had won a victory and bought it.

In the shower next morning I had a thought. Returning to the ’van I checked out a corner locker full of old hats and stuff. Not one pouch with a belt loop, not two, not even three . . . but FOUR.

Pam’s going to return the loopless one to Mr. Apple-peel; I don’t have the nerve.


Last night Pam set fire to a sheet of paper that had been wrapped around some really beautiful salmon – the flame under the frying pan caught a corner of the paper and next second it was blazing up in her hand. She tried to douse it under the caravan's kitchen tap but it just blazed up again so she decided it was a ‘blue’ job and dragged me from the computer. Anyway, it all ended happily. The bloody smoke detector, however, never issued a sound; not a single 'beep'.

It would appear that these devices are designed just to irritate the hell out of sleepy people making toast in the morning.

Sorry, what was that? A new battery, you think? Do they use batteries?

  Aren't friends wonderful?  

We received an email from two good friends that we met some years ago in Emu Park which is on the coast near Rockhampton, northern Queensland. Ken and Fay also travel the country but they do it differently. They discovered a ready market for 'house sitters'. They have a mobile home which they call "The Turtle" but generally move from looking after one home, frequently with pets or other animals, to another. They realised we were only just over an hour's drive away so contacted us and we met up at Tamborine Mountain, mid-way between us.

  Ken and Fay with Pam between at Eagle Heights, Tamborine Mountain.  

After a nice lunch and a drop of red we parted to head for our respective homes. But not before Ken and Fay had invited us to visit them at Currumbin, south of Brisbane, where they are house sitting. Another job for new Alice so watch this space.

  Mount Coot-tha.  

One day we drove up to the look-out on Mount Coot-tha. If you think the mountain's name is funny, you should hear Alice try and pronounce it! Coot-tha is derived from ku-ta in the Turrbal Aboriginal language and it means 'place of honey'. The Turrbal people climbed the mountain to collect honey produced by the native stingless bee. We later saw a very busy stingless bees' nest when we visited the nearby Brisbane Botanical Gardens. These bees are a fraction of the size of their stinging cousins.

  A stingless bees' nest which was - sorry for the pun - a hive of activity.
However, the bees were so small and fast that it was hard to catch them with the camera.
Brisbane from the look-out on Mount Coot-tha. See the big wheel on the right? That's on the
foreshore of the wide Brisbane River though you'd never know it from this picture.

As well as the botanical gardens at Mount Coot-tha, there are more botanical gardens in Brisbane city. There is some confusion as to which is entitled to be called the Brisbane Botanic Gardens. It appears that the city gardens used to carry the name but after ten damaging floods since 1870, the Brisbane City Council established new gardens at Coot-tha and the city gardens were renamed the City Botanic Gardens.

Anyway, being mid winter the gardens were looking far from their best. Nevertheless, it was a pleasant place to visit.

  The gardens had some exotic bird life.  
  We even saw a crane in the treetops.  
  Left: Yes, the sun shone, the sprinklers sprinkled, flowers bloomed and all was peaceful.
Right: Crikey, what's going on here then? Oh, it's okay, they're just filling a bottle from a drinking fountain. Phew!