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Highway One – Brisbane


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As modern cities go, Brisbane is hard to beat.

Any city which has turned a treasury building into an inner city casino has also paid solid tribute to the remarkable fact that voting in governments who then spend the public’s money is so very much like gambling. Especially in a unicameral parliamentary system which gives political longevity to an inveterate crook like Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen. In Brisbane they decided some time ago that they might as well remove the distinction between governance and gambling. And so the old state treasury building and Lands Office of Queensland is now, appropriately, the Treasury Casino and it is festooned in glowing lights.

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Seriously though, it is a wonderful city. Not only is the city beautiful by day and stunning at night but since it sits between the tropics of the North and is protected from the drier heat of the South and West by the seemingly endless Great Dividing Range, Brisbane enjoys the best of both warm Summery worlds. It has a kind of Goldilocks climate: not too dry, not too wet. Not too hot, not too cold.

Like a lot of Australia Brisbane is dotted with National Parks but unlike most of regional Australia those national parks are lush, green, ubiquitous. Brisbane is a lovely place where, like Townsville and Cairns much of the natural beauty comes from being located where the Great Dividing Range folds into the Pacific Ocean.

So geographically it is hilly. So hilly that distances as the crow flies and distances on foot would bear only a little resemblance to each other. There are streets where going to the corner shop two blocks away would constitute a serious work out. It is somewhat like Edinburgh, Scotland in that respect and also like Edinburgh the character of the place is enhanced by improbable looking roads, steep laneways.

Brisbane also has a diverse economy and a thriving small business community which is certainly fueled by the lush, tropical agricultural lands to the North and the mining in the North-West. With the exception of Cairns, which hoovers money into development and is experiencing ridiculous rates of population growth, those people I spoke to in the North are only too aware that Brisbane is the main benefactor of much of their own region’s prosperity. That wealth definitely shows up: Brisbane is a ridiculously wealthy place and like other rich, new cities such as Perth, that means a fairly high cost of living overall.

Brisbane also has a vibrant sense of its own economic power though as evidenced by an extremely busy inner city which has burst the Northern banks of the river to develop the South Bank into a beautiful public space and business development.

With fast rail and bus systems connecting central and suburban Brisbane to the Gold Coast in the South and to the Sunshine Coast in the North, the transit around and out of Brisbane is pretty expensive for a tourist – kiss goodbye to five dollars for going two inner city train stops – but it also seems reasonably efficient to someone used to the rather sad and ineffective Perth public transport system.

That said, if you are staying in Brisbane for any period of time and intend to use the rail system to get around, get a transit card. Buying tickets at any station is a really slow process taking so long you’re almost guaranteed to miss at least one train waiting in lines. Getting a transit card in advance is the way to go.

In any event, the prosperity of the city and the security it offers is highly attractive to investment of course.

Attractive is a good word for the entire city.

IMG_6802 redoneFrom the glorious red cliff faces and city-river views at Kangaroo Point, university campuses and thousands and thousands of lush, parks, playgrounds dotted around the inner city, an artificial inner city beach at the river front on the South Bank, North and South Stradbroke Islands, Kangaroo Island, actually there’s a shitload of islands not far offshore from Brisbane. It is a natural gateway to the Barrier Reef to the North for international tourists. Brisbane stands to attract and retain a lot more international money from wealthy international visitors, property and industrial development and intellectual property than it already has.

It can do that by simply being better than most other cities in the world in so many categories. Secure as a place for most kinds of financial investment it is steeped in considerable natural beauty. Inner city national parks exist which make it possible to feel completely removed from all and any urban living.

For a Perth person who lives in the most remote city in the world, access to a space filled with that kind of solitude, easy reconnection to nature takes an hour’s drive out of the city at least. In Brisbane that same sense of city vanishing into nature can even happen while driving between suburbs. You get smacked around by natural beauty inside the city. That blurriness between city and country is universally attractive to the locals, I suspect.

It is a green and lush place so that even in those places where suburbia and industry mingle there are still fertile looking parks, you can find trees from both tropical and more temperate or dry climates.

Staying in the Northern suburb of Stafford with a great bloke, Dave, (he’s a bloke who sometimes smiles so much that it causes him to have headaches) has been a real h00t.

Brisbane Set 2 Pic 1He’s given me a lot of his time and has led the charge in a tireless but fruitless search for Brisbane koalas. We’ve seen various kinds of owls in the city, large bats are always easy to find, possums do their agile trapeze act along power lines… The ubiquitous mango trees and lush parklands dotted through out the suburbs make for a lot of green on the ground and a lot of living space and nourishment for birds.

Much of the biodiversity of the tropics can live here so it does, but, mercifully, not the largest of the insects.

The March flies of the North are like tiny winged piranhas and they seem to hunt humans in small vicious packs are thankfully absent in sub-tropical Brisbane. Indeed the flies so annoying in so many parts of the country are conspicuously thin in the air here.

So too the large, green ants which bite hard enough to feel like a small burn, they are a quarantined species of the North and vicious bastards besides. That quarantine is effective enough to have kept them from taking ahold of Brisbane and eating the locals.

That is to say that Brisbane seems to enjoy a special, happy latitude where the weather is mostly fine, where the biodiversity is wonderful but where the super-sized insect life is well at bay, it is insect poor, excluding the constant song of the trillion or so Brisbane cicadas and the smaller garden variety ants. It is a place where the river meets the sea and a very lovely city has come to life.

Its future is certainly very bright.

Murphy at Sly Manor

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Dave in Back Yard With Fire

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Glasshouse Mountains 3

Glasshouse Mountains 4

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4 Responses to Highway One – Brisbane

  1. Great shots as always. Keep the content coming, can’t wait to see your next leg of the journey 🙂

    • Bart says:

      Thanks Jman!

      Gonna really miss Brisbane which comes as completely unexpected. Get a bit weepy thinking about it. That said I have a pair of very itchy feet and am pretty keen to get started on driving around NSW. Still have to go backtracking a bit North first though. Thinking of a drive to the Whitsundays and some underwater GoPro action. See how I go, already months behind schedule so gotta get a wriggle on but QLD is so lovely it’s not all that easy to leave. That said Northern coastal NSW looks mighty kickarse too.

      Loving the look of the Ingerid and Eli site. That really looks the business, mate. Very slick design and the content is, of course, terrific. Congrats to you and Nic!

  2. Lizabeth says:

    Guy Smiley as I always liked to call him!

    And glad to hear that the insect size is more reasonable in that part of Queensland. Even as a non-arachnophobe it’s a little disconcerting reading about spiders that eat birds :/

    Did you ever find a koala? When we were in regional Victoria over new years there were heaps of them on the farm we were staying at. The alpha male would make the weirdest noises at dusk calling all the others in. It was kind of a cross between a dog’s bark and an elephant’s… toot?

    • Bart says:

      The search for koalas continues and Guy Smiley is a great name for Dave.

      We could have just gone to a local koala sanctuary and possibly even drown in koalas, but there didn’t seem much of a challenge in finding koalas at a koala sanctuary. Brisbane koalas are around so legend has it but they’re not common or easy to find so persistence would be the only real way.

      Thanks for the tip off about the koala noises, gonna have to listen for that at dusk when moving around in koala country. I already know to look for scratches on the bark of the eucalypts.

      Still looking for drop bears. Keen to film one of those in the wild!

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