8 to 9 August 2019
Camp Hill, Brisbane to Toowoomba via Mount Coot-tha and the Wivenhoe Dam, 183km
After a few days hanging out with Ranny, Andy and Bella in Brisbane we set off on our great Australian roadtrip
but before we left the city behind completely we took a drive up Mount Coot-tha for a view back down from its 287 metre high perch.
Under its summit sprall the beautiful Brisbane Botanic Gardens
where we wandered in and out of the tropical dome and the fern house,
round the tranquil Japanese garden
and through the shady bamboo forest
enjoying all the different natural textures and reflections.
Halfway to Toowomba, our first destination, we took a detour off the highway up to the Wivenhoe Dam where Stefan used to go kayaking. There we made our first picnic out of the back of the Landcruiser. One of the brilliant things about Australia is that you are never far from a shady, well equipped picnic site.
Toowoomba sits inland from Brisbane on the edge of the Great Dividing Range. At 700m above sea level it was noticeably colder than the coast and so we decided against camping and checked ourselves into a motel so that we could spend the next day exploring this big town.
The town has become something of a hub for street art. Since 2013, the First Coat Festival has seen huge numbers of enormous murals painted around every corner and so we spent our morning going in search of some of them.
Down every alley and
in every parking lot we found slogans and portraits
birds and monkeys
as well as some more traditional designs. Toowoomba’s streets really are an open air art gallery.
And, if you look up from the modern art and shop fronts, they are also full of beautifully preserved heritage buildings from the late 19th and early 20th century.
It was not hard to imagine the roads full of horse drawn wagons instead of cars.
To learn a little more about the era of horse power we visited the Cobb & Co museum with its collection of stage coaches used for transporting everything from meat to mail and people. Having driven on some of Australia’s roads we were somewhat in awe at those who travelled in what must have been very uncomfortable conditions for very any hours to get anywhere. 1000s of miles in a horse drawn coach on unmade roads is unimaginable.
The museum also started to give us an understanding of the tools and traditions of the First Australians and the importance of their connection to their land.
And then, of course, their early interactions with the first European settlers. We were surprised to see a reminder of London culture with the photo of a local pearly king but perhaps less surprised to find that the colonial settlers desire for shiny pearls meant the exploitation of Aboringinal, Torres Strait Islander and Pacific Islander labour.
No one seemed to epitomise the convict made good more than local politician William Henry Groom. Transported at 16 years old in 1849 he worked his way up through the gold mines to become a journalist and Toowoomba’s first mayor. He served in the Queensland Parliament for 38 years and was the only convict to serve in the federal government.
Away from the high street Toowoomba is full of traditional Queensland architecture and in its own botanic gardens we caught an early glimpse of its famous Spring flowers.
Before we left Toowoomba we took in the view across the Great Dividing Range from Picnic Point and we started to get a real sense of the distances in front of us…