Brisbane and Longreach - 02-11/01/15

Liz and Kit Bunker - our hosts at Birkdale, near Brisbane.

Having told people that we have three sets of friends in Brisbane, it turns out that's not quite right.  It's a bit like having friends who live in Guildford, St Albans and Tunbridge Wells and saying they all live in London! 

We first stayed with Liz and Kit Bunker, friends from PNG.  Their home is in Birkdale, south-east of Brisbane, in a lovely leafy area near the bay.  Kit taught at the Teachers' college in Goroka, Liz worked in Martin's office complex in Educational Admin and I taught their youngest son for a while.  Most of the family took part in the production of Babes in the Wood which I produced in the local theatre, which brought back a few memories.  Putting on a very English pantomime in a theatre in the round, built of local materials, with a cast largely unfamiliar with the genre, for an audience who had no idea what it was all about ... were we mad?

Liz and Kit looked after us beautifully and showed us the sights of the area all around Moreton Bay (famous for fig trees and a delicious crustacean - Moreton bay bug).  I relaxed in their pool and we enjoyed the company of Selvi, the Indonesian student who is living with them at the moment.  She comes from Borneo and has managed to put Malaysian Borneo on my bucket list!  They also invited another Goroka friend, Alasdair Meikle, for lunch and it was lovely to catch up with him and all his news.

We spent one day in Brisbane City, mainly because we needed to visit the bank there.  I think one visit is enough.  We took a trip on the catamaran ferry, which travels the length of the city and took many photos from arty angles, trying to make the scenery interesting, but it was a bit of a challenge.  We are now glad that none of our friends actually lives in Brisbane!

Sydney was hot, but Queensland is hotter and the insects are bitier.  We've been through one tube of bite relief cream already and who needs Chanel when you can go around smelling of Tesco's insect repellent?  Insects love me and whenever we land in a new place, they swarm round within minutes, sniffing out fresh blood. 
Next stop in Queensland was Longreach, way out in the drought-ridden centre.  When we flew out of Brisbane, at first we thought the landscape looked quite green, but as we went further west we soon saw how brown and parched it really is.  Many farmers are desperate and brief storms or showers of rain merely tantalise and do little to help.  Longreach is a small town, but an important centre for the people who make a livelihood out here, so has all necessary facilities, including a hairdresser, which I was pretty desperate for.  The regular daily temperature was now 36 degrees and hair round the face definitely not a good feeling.

Our main reason for going to Longreach was to visit the Qantas Founders Museum.  As you can imagine, this was Martin's choice and, as he did all the work of planning this trip, I was happy to humour him.  I was very pleasantly surprised by how interesting it is!  Some of you will know that my tolerance for aircraft and railway museums is normally about half an hour, but this one kept me engrossed all day.  Of course there are some aeroplanes to look at, including a Boeing 707 that once belonged to Michael Jackson and a retired 747 that had to be landed with great skill, as the Longreach runway is half the length and width normally needed for a jumbo. But the real point of the museum is to tell the story of the two young airmen who returned from WW1 looking for work and, in the early 20s, started an air service to meet the needs of the far-flung farmers and their families whose enormous properties were (still are) great distances from any town and frequently inaccessible by road due to  bad weather.  The result was the Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Ltd - and the rest is history. The museum, which is privately run as a charity, is modern and well displayed, with multi-media presentations that work, and even if you are not much interested in aeroplanes, it's a stunning piece of social history.  And if you are interested in aeroplanes......

We hired a car in Longreach and spent our second day driving out to see a bit of the country.  We were somewhat limited, as our car did not have four wheel drive, essential for any unsealed roads - and all the "scenic" places are on unsealed roads.  But we drove to a couple of very small towns, once thriving centres for the farming community, now rather dusty museum sites with few inhabitants.  Such attractions as they have are mostly closed at this time of year (winter being high season in Queensland), but we did visit a display devoted to explaining the Isisfordia Duncani - mother of all crocodiles.  This fossil, found in tiny Isisford less than ten years ago, is recognised as the ancestor of all modern crocodile species and the town, which is 100km away from Longreach, now advertises it as the main attraction. It's a fine example of making good use of what you have!  Driving 100km is simple enough when the road is dead straight and virtually empty, but more hazardous, we guess, after dark.  The roadside, especially on the main highway is littered with literally hundreds of dead kangaroos, in various stages of decomposition.  Just one jumped across the road in front of us, a fair distance ahead, but it was easy to see that if it was dark, and the animal jumped out in front of you, you would have no chance at all of avoiding it.

There was one more sight to see in Longreach; the Australian Stockman's Hall of Fame and Outback Heritage Centre.  Big name to live up to and it had been recommended to us by several people, but we were somewhat underwhelmed.  It's a fascinating story and there were a lot of interesting exhibits, but the whole thing was over-wordy and seriously under-lit!  The best bit was the gallery about the Flying Doctor Service, which didn't suffer from artistic lighting effects.

Tomorrow we take the bus to Mt Isa.  It should be a splendid opportunity to view kangaroo corpses!

A tranquil Aussie evening bush scene near the Bunkers in Birkdale. Lush compared with later scenes .......

It's Brisbane, but could you tell it from Chicago, Hong Kong, Singapore or Cairo? Well, perhaps not Cairo!

Qantas Pioneers Museum - Longreach. The main reason for including Longreach in the itinerary!

This is a replica, but Qantas started with this in 1920. What! No Business Class?

One for our PNG friends! This was one of the DC3s given by TAA to Air Niugini. We may have travelled in it - sidesaddle!

Western Queensland. This goes on for thousands of square miles. We'll never complain about rain again. We probably will, but not for a while ....... The pioneer settlers were certainly a tough lot to settle here.

Australian Grey Kangaroo literally outside our motel window. She came with a dozen or more friends. Sweet! But I bet you mums are glad you're not marsupial!! Water isn't a problem in town at the moment, it comes from the River Thomson and can be blended with bore water, so many gardens get watered regularly - hence the attraction for kangaroos to graze every evening.

Isn't it about time you got a place of your own? The head and legs are just one joey! Kangaroo mum's have to put up with this for between 9 and 18 months ......

Australian Stockman's Hall of Fame - Longreach. 41C!

Australian Stockman's Hall of Fame - Longreach. Thank goodness for air conditioning!