Well, it’s been an interesting couple of weeks here. A few highs and lows which are a natural part of life. Since surfing these emotional waves is not my forte, I planned to climb a mountain for some nature therapy.
I was hoping to regale you with sweaty tales of danger and delight as I scaled the summit of Mt Maroon, a class 5 walk requiring high fitness, navigational skills, and some rock scrambling with a 360 degree view as a reward. However, my dreams were short-lived as the heavens erupted the night before and I woke up to a warm, humid day with even more showers and storms predicted.
Storms and rock scrambling do not mix. The weather probably saved my daughter from having to write an obituary post anyway. Disappointed but not defeated, I rang my son and asked him if he’d like a walk in Toohey Forest Park on the weekend. I woke before my alarm went off as I do every time I’m going to a new hiking destination. While dunking my sugar and fat filled gingernut biscuits into a mug of organic, ethically grown healthy green tea (they balance each other out) I was anticipating being able to write a riveting blog post about venomous snake encounters and fluffy koalas. A twinge in the abdomen as I left the house was ignored.
By the time I’d arrived at my son’s house the twinge had become an alien trying to burst out of my belly and not just a normal alien – a spiky, electrified, elephant-sized one. (Ok, I admit I have been re-reading some Roald Dahl childhood favourites lately.) I hadn’t walked a metre in Toohey Forest and yet I was already drenched in sweat and in more pain than I’ve ever been on a walk. Toohey Forest will remain unexplored for the moment. I’m not sure what morsel of food was contaminated but I refuse to believe it was the gingernuts.
So this week I’m offering you a regular walk I do a few times a week, for most of the year. Some days I work at the University of Queensland and in breaks I walk or jog along the paths that follow the delightfully murky brown Brisbane River. It’s a popular spot for students and locals to get some exercise. I usually do 8-10 km depending on the time I have.
Here’s a typical example of the lovely wide, tree lined paths I take.
I admire female golden orbweaver spiders along the way. In this picture you can see the tiny male. Unlike the previous post, I was more careful not to disturb the couple so Casanova lived to woo another day. It makes me strangely happy that the females of the arachnid world can be much larger and scarier. Apparently the glistening golden silk web is attractive to bees. Here in Queensland they grow very large and the webs have been known to catch small birds. Here is a link to a video of one such spider biting a snake in its web.
Water dragons are a common sight and this one gave me the usual stare down.
The university lakes and sports grounds are home to a wide variety of birds.
Smelly ibis are common and not the most pleasant of lunch pals. This one had plenty of natural food to keep him occupied though. I am still rather fond of them but can’t seem to convince many others of their appeal. I find them attractively ugly, adaptable and interesting birds
Recently I was startled to see this beautiful egret standing on a grate right by the path. I’ve never been so close to them before.
This week Paula Peeters wrote a blog post about why ibis are grubby and egrets are so clean which is very convenient for this blog post. Check out her post if you are interested. Paula explains it much better than me.
I usually don’t get this close to masked lapwings either. I have a pair in my suburban street that nest by the side of the road. I often see a chick standing perilously close to passing cars.
I also see wood ducks, Pacific black ducks and purple swamphens.
And then there are the human creatures I often see riding on two wheels. What a joy it is to see so many bicycles. They are not common in my suburb.
Back in 1987 when I started my studies at the university, I saw this unusual sausage tree, Kigelia Africana, which is native to parts of Africa. As you can imagine, they provided a source of amusement to some students. The fruit is actually a woody berry and can weigh from 5 – 10kg. Like the bunya nuts from another post, it is recommended you walk under them with caution. They are a source of food for a variety of African mammals but apparently the raw fresh fruit is poisonous to humans. Here in Australia, cockatoos have been known to eat them.
On my last walk through the grounds, I was surprised to find the trees had evolved! It seems that the seed pods have grown faces. The tree is near a bus station so perhaps they have a special effect on plant development…
Grevillea robusta, commonly known as the Australian silky oak also grows along the river paths. The golden blooms are very attractive to wildlife.
And another tree which is quite well known at the university is the Jacaranda, a genus from the Bignoniaceae family, native to South America. They usually flower close to study week (swot vacation) leading up to final exams of the year, so the purple explosion is not an event many students welcome. There are a few superstitions about the petals. The one that I remember from my uni days was that if a petal fell on your shoulder you would fail your exam.
I am heartened by some of the improvements to public transport for students. The Eleanor Schonell bridge is only for buses, pedestrians and cyclists and connects the university at St.Lucia to Dutton Park. It was originally called the Green Bridge but has been re-named after a woman who was internationally recognised for her contribution to dyslexia testing. She was also well-known for her generosity and humanity and contributed to the education of children with intellectual disabilities as well as those suffering from cerebral palsy.
There are also racks of city cycles available for students to ride however spontaneously hiring them is not a simple process.
On one of my cycling jaunts along the river paths I stopped to watch rock climbers at Kangaroo Point. My mildly extreme reputation has not stretched to join them. I was happy to appreciate their far superior fitness and skills from the ground.
I dragged myself out of bed early one morning to take a train and a bus to these river pathways so I could cycle at sunrise. There were no shortages of speedy riders ready to overtake me.
A ferry service also connects the university to other parts of Brisbane and I take advantage of this also.
But I have gone off topic again, haven’t I? Let’s return to the University of Queensland now. As well as beautiful river paths to follow, there is architecture to admire. The great court area is surrounded by sandstone buildings. I felt very inspired as a young student when I walked through these archways.
The Art Museum used to be Mayne Hall where graduations were held. Somewhere hidden inside is a massive pipe organ.
To end my little tour I’d like to leave you with the words on the Forgan Smith Building (the law faculty).
One thing I do know to be true is that I love to walk. I hope to bring you a more challenging adventure in the next post but given my work/study commitments and the unpredictable weather, I have no idea when this will happen and what it will be about. I just hope I don’t swallow any more alien invaders in the meantime. Thanks for reading! 🙂