Saturday, June 29, 2013

Hunting for Crocodile Steaks and Emu Fillets.

My son was visiting from New Zealand and I had promised him some uniquely Australian food. We had done some research and made bookings at the Tukka Restaurant in Brisbane City.

He was looking forward to vanilla cured crocodile with a nectarine and strawberry salad, and lemon myrtle dressing. I had my heart set on emu fillet, with celeriac remoulade and a raspberry and liquorice compote. I love liquorice and who serves it with meat? I had to see.

These will become handbags. Are they also destined to be dinner?

The GPS had been playing up all day but as we entered the city it failed completely for long minutes at a time. I headed in what I hoped was the right direction, watching the GPS as it locked in and out of our location. We parked in an unfamiliar part of town just as it turned five pm.

An hour later, we were still walking the winter dark streets looking for our restaurant.

We had started walking in what the GPS said was the right direction. The road disappeared into a huge busy intersection spanning more than two streets and then re-emerged as a narrow street on the other side of a large grassy park.

Negotiating the busy streets meant crossing up to five lanes of road, some of which did not have cross-walks. Impatient drivers heading home after a long day at work made it risky.

On the other side, the street numbers were too high but we walked further down, mostly because I could see the lights of the nearby Storey Bridge glowing prettily. I really hoped the restaurant would be set under it with magic views of the river.

It wasn’t looking good. I checked the GPS again.

If I went by the street address, it should have been in the triangular shaped leafy park between the adjacent streets. I had seen a picture of the building on the Internet. It was a tall white building with a large obvious sign. I ruled out the possibility of it being underground, and wondered what made it so difficult to see.

To make things even more complicated, we looked over a barrier next to the footpath and there was a lower level. That too seemed to head off in the wrong direction.

In frustration, I called the restaurant and a staff member told us it was right across from the Suncorp Bank. I turned to the GPS again and it said there was one just five hundred metres away. We had wandered quite far from where the GPS had originally directed us so we wandered back and found ourselves outside a huge, curved, multi-storied office building topped by a Suncorp sign.

Ten minutes later we had done a circumnavigation of the building and were still lost.

After over an hour of criss-crossing the busy streets, we gave up and went to dinner at a local Chinese, vegetarian, sushi, and noodle restaurant where we ordered a stir-fry and soup. To spice things up, I ordered canned drinks in guava, pomegranate, and lychee.

I called the restaurant with the last eight per cent of battery life on my now ailing GPS enabled phone and apologised. He asked where I was then said “Who told you that address?”

It seems we were in Boundary Road and we should have been in Boundary Street. That certainly explained a few things.

The next day I apologised again to my son and thanked him for his patience. He said it was okay. “It will make a good story” he said.

I can hear the laughter now as he tells his brothers how mum has really lost her marbles. I only hope he goes easy on words like “senility,” “Alzheimer’s” and “Is it too soon to put her in a home?”

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Fish in the Bush?

As I walked down the sandy path, a black lizard slithered into the spiked grass and under the leaves. Birds flew between the canopies of nearby trees and called out in musical tones. The huge jagged gashes of tree branches torn from their trunks suggested a recent storm had damaged the area.

Beneath one of the shattered trees, was a large square concrete tub on legs, split into two pieces. More concrete shapes hulked nearby and a metal rail surrounded it all.

A sign told me what I wanted to know. Fifty years ago it was an aquarium.

The concrete tanks used to have glass fronts and they held seawater piped in from the local bay. Wooden huts sheltered the tanks from the sometimes fierce sun and tidy paths led from one building to another.

In 1962, Bill Stewart obviously thought it was an attraction that Bribie Island needed. The government was offering incentives to local businesses in anticipation of the new bridge to be built the next year. He decided to set up the aquarium using the latest technology from a Sydney based research group.

Bill collected the fish himself. The sign says he spent all his time diving for fish to fill the tanks. Perhaps he should have spent more time on marketing and promotion. His aquarium closed less than a year after it opened and has sat quietly disintegrating ever since.

Fifty years later, people like me occasionally come to gawk. It is not Macchu Picchu but I like it all the same. It is a charming ruin of broken concrete, squares, and chunks, collapsed into messy piles. It tells a story of creativity unrewarded and hopes dashed. It is not that old, but it is history, and unlike the more popular South American ruins, I can have it all to myself. There are no crowds here.

I followed the track around to another ruin looking much like the first and then past it through a strangely quiet section of closed in forest.

It just needed a low grey mist swirling across the ground to make it the stuff of horror movies. Instead the sun spread heat and light across the tops of the remaining trees, where it filtered down into quite an acceptable morning walk.

After the second structure, the path continued on to grassy sand dunes and then a deserted stretch of beach, but I didn’t go that far. I was in unsuitable shoes and an orange boat racing across the near horizon felt like an intrusion into my peace. In any case the ruins were more interesting.

I love something unusual and unexpected. A dilapidated aquarium in a remote piece of bush is certainly that. Add to that an island setting, and one that, thanks to the bridge built in 1963, I can drive to, and I am very happy indeed.

I was surprised that there was nothing to advertise the spot until I reached it. The road was unsealed and the car park was churned up with mud. Further back along the road there was another car park, and as I left I noticed there were two dogs and their owners starting off for walks of a second track.

I thought it odd, given that there were at least three signs requesting no dogs be walked in the area.

I wondered if they had plans to disregard the other prominent signs too. Signs that said “No Nude bathing.”

I decided it was time I left.