Monday, June 27, 2011


Walking may be the single best way to explore the planet. I am convinced that the human body can best take in its surroundings on foot. Technology allows us to zip across huge expanses of land in sealed up containers without having to consider what we are missing. But walking-- ah, walking-- gets you quietly up close and personal with the world. My advice to myself in a new place is usually to explore via walking. It works most everywhere, from the wilderness to the most developed urban areas (barring some places that are shamefully designed to discourage pedestrians). Here are some photos from my wanderings around Australian environs:

Good example of modern society's conspiracy to make certain neighborhoods only accessible by car. This is my current home.

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree/Merry merry king of the bush is he... now that I know what "kookaburra," "gum tree," and "the bush" are, this song makes SO much more sense! Here we have a very poor quality picture of a kookaburra on a wire line.

This spirited grunge rock band I heard in the West End (Brisbane) had a mesmerizing energy, thanks to their lead singer, a hardcore woman in tight red pants with a contagiously powerful attitude.

Art is everywhere in Newtown, a Sydney neighborhood known for attracting an alternative, progressive crowd. I found this contemplative creature sketched on brown paper, then pasted to the boarded up doorway of an abandoned building.

Color and light play at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Brisbane's swanky pedestrian bridge and city skyline bask in the fading glow of yet another breathtaking Aussie sunset.

A magical trellis for the 21st Century on the South Bank, Brisbane.

Recycled robot pelicans have colonized a riverbank pylon on the Brisbane River!

The old Queensland Treasury building, now a casino. Clever, eh? One thing I've learned is that Aussies really like their gambling. "Pokies" (slot machines) are everywhere. The bar where we won the case of beer in St. George had lottery, pokies, TVs for horse racing and greyhound racing, and tons of other gambling opportunities.

Like mother, like daughter :)

Stalker picture number 2. This one was just too good to pass up. Country guys wear these long, heavy oilcloth trench coats around, apparently even to rugby games.

The impacts of mining are a normal fact of life for Toowoomba residents. Looking out from any vantage point over the Dividing Range, you will see quarries stretching into the distance. The quarry in this picture is for "blue metal," one constituent of road beds. Many of the other quarries in the area mine sandstone. Toowoomba also serves as a major throughway for New Hope Coal trains (we wait for trains nearly every day) taking coal from the interior to the coast to be shipped to markets in Asia. Many attribute Australia's record expansion of resource extraction in recent years as the key to the "two-speed economy" that helped to offset slumps in tourism, manufacturing, and other sectors affected by the strong dollar.

However, mining and drilling activities have serious environmental and social consequences. Activists are currently fighting a plan to dredge part of the Great Barrier Reef at Gladstone, Qld in order to put in a new port for shipping coal to the north. Activists have also been fighting plans to issue exploration permits to gas and mining companies to operate within Toowoomba and Oakey city limits. Residents have little recourse because the government controls all mineral rights in Australia and can lease as they please. The Commonwealth government talks a lot about protecting strategic agricultural lands from mining development, but says little about protecting communities under threat. However, the paper reported this weekend that "Qld Mining Minister Hinchliffe warned resource companies to 'think twice' before drilling near established communities." The paper also said that "the encroachment of mining and test drilling on urban areas is fanning a grassroots revolt." Well, that's what you get for trying to drill on Nicole Kidman's $6.8 million retreat outside of Syndey just because you can.

Here we are standing on Table Top Mountain, looking back across the valley at the escarpment upon which Toowoomba sits. The landscape isn't really that different from the Ouachitas. Very homey. Getting to the top of the mountain requires a bit of scrambling over loose scree and rockclimbing, but the view and the quietude at the top are pretty astounding. Ross and I sat for a while, gazing out over the Lockyer Valley and talking about flying. Apparently people hike up and hang glide down from the top of the mountain. He was telling me about his experiences in a glider, where you ride invisible thermal coils up into the sky and then coast down, coil up and glide down. All you hear is the faint rush of wind and the creaking of the aircraft. So cool!

Tree king of the ridgetop hoards his boulders.

Each June, hundreds of professional road bikers descend upon our modest town for the Tour of Toowoomba. We went to spectate the Open Criterium race on the last day of the competition, where the bikers do 21 laps (50 km) around Queen's Park.

Silhouette of a shopper crossing a bridge on Toowoomba City's main drag, Margaret Street.

Yep, it's definitely winter!

Sunset has come for this strip of historic storefronts in more ways than one. Sadly, an indoor megamall two blocks over has sucked the life from the streets.


Changing city streets sometimes makes for creative examples of adaptive reuse, such as this fitness center in an old church.

The dark bark of eucalyptus trees shreds off to leave smooth, white trunks behind.

Behind the darker eucalyptus (commonly referred to as "ironbark") in the foreground, you can see the slim, white trunks of another type of eucalyptus. Standing in a forest of these giants is incredible because of the stark contrast of their milky trunks against the dark green of the shrub layer and the dark silver-green canopy of their leaves swaying high above.

One last scene: Ross descending through the ubiquitous red dirt into the Lockyer Valley one splendid Sunday evening.


  1. i really <3 the robot pelicans. awesome pics! thanks for sharing :)

  2. oooh i love the Tree King of ridgetop

  3. Love this post. I'm gonna walk in Mendoza all over.