Queensland Stories and Tips

Toowoomba

The Tabletop mountain viewed from the Picnic Point Photo, Queensland, Australia

As in Canada, it seems that the best experiences in Australia await us in the kind of places that people comment on in the manner of "you are going where???".

We go to Toowoomba (don't you just love this sound as a town name) as this is where we have a couch, and with a family at that. Toowoomba is a town that sits at the top of the Great Dividing Range, presiding over the agricultural area of the Darling Downs.

The views from the escarpment ridge down towards the plains are excellent and the town itself, very conservative and at least 30 years behind times, is interesting.

One day, we go climb the Table Mountain, a volcanic crag of a hill that sticks up from the rolling countryside below the Great Dividing Range on top of which Toowoomba sits.

And in the evening we go for a barbecue in the park (Toowoomba does parks really well and our hosts live near one of the better ones - the Queen's Park).

There are public barbecues placed in strategic locations in Aussie parks, and by public barbecues I don't mean those rusting iron tins with grilles over them, requiring you to bring your own charcoal. These are gas powered hot plates, with a handy tap and even a rubbish bin nearby. The park is dark and deserted, but we have a camping light and have a real Aussie sausage sizzle. After that the kids play in a nearby playpark (how they can see anything it's hard to work out, but they seem to cope well) and then we go (with the powerful camping torch) to look for possums. And there they are, scuttling on the ground and up the trunks of the big camphor laurel trees, cute and strange.

Being in Australia is a bit like being permanently in a zoo, a safari park or some kind of giant Eden-like biodome. Majority of plants easily find into the "exotic" category - with the large eucalyptus trees being the most iconic and dominating the landscape with the characteristic shapes of their canopies.

But it's the animals that make one realise most that one is somewhere COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. It's also a fascinating lesson in convergent evolution. Each ecological niche that we know from home is occupied by a vaguely equivalent animal: instead of rooks there are Australian magpies, and the squirrel niche is occupied by possums. We also saw kookaburras, cokatoos, rainbow lorikeets, pale headed rosellas and other parrots.

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