Big Question Marks

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Leaping Lizards!

Something happened last week in Brisbane where the temperatures suddenly shot way up from the usual 22-degree days to around 28C to 30C. Suddenly we're walking on the shadowy side of the street and everyone's in sundresses again. It's still supposed to be spring for another few months, and there are lots of flowers blooming in true spring spirit. But the best part about this early summertime is it's brought out the lizard population in the city!

Not far from our apartment is the South Bank Parklands, a great strip of grass, trees, walkways, and cafes (and the artificial beach) running alongside the river for many city blocks. Griffith University stands at one end of the parkland and just beyond the campus is a delightful little patch of jungly duckpond, where birds cruise around and kids play in the playground (and teenagers make out). We're well used to all of that scenery, so imagine our surprise when one day, we saw a big fat iguana-like lizard perched on a rock at the edge of the duckpond. And then a bit of movement catches your eye on another rock, and there's a smaller lizard, running on its hind legs in a near-standing position, just like a tiny velociraptor!

It's a lizard-vs-duck world out there.

The paths throughout the parklands are always packed with joggers and cyclists, and now add to that fearless lizards dashing across the pathways, just to make things a little more interesting. They don't appear very afraid of people, and they certainly aren't afraid of birds that are way bigger than them -- I witnessed a magpie vs. lizard standoff one day and the large and nasty magpie (the ones we're afraid of) was the first one to flee.

An unlikely jogging hazard

"Yeah.... what?!"

The former Gondwanaland park
We're not sure if the lizards were just hibernating during the last few months, or if they were holidaying in the Outback or something. But apparently the jungly duckpond area of the parklands was formerly something like a living educational theme park about Gondwanaland, the big prehistoric land mass that all the continents broke off from many eons ago. After the theme park was shut down, the "dinosaurs" of the miniature Gondwanaland (aka. Gondwana Rainforest Sanctuary) were either set free of perhaps escaped -- at least, that's one theory on why there are so many reptiles hanging around the river. But we also saw quite a few lizards sunning themselves on the rocks next to the cliffs of Kangaroo Point (a suburb near South Bank that rises high above the city atop some gorgeous riverside cliffs). It's lizard heaven here in Brisbane: rocks, sunshine, plenty of bugs...what else could a lizard want?

Lizard near the Kangaroo Point cliffs

We even have a resident lizard who's made his home on our own back patio -- a little skittish skink that lives in the raised root of our palm tree, and comes out for sunshine briefly until he's spotted by curious breakfasters peeping into his home. We named him Louie... and promise to snap a photo of him if we're ever quick enough one day.

Garden skink - a spitting image of our backyard pal Louie!
 (image by ozwildlife)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

City of Lights

Lately Brisbane's been aflurry with lights, lasers, and fireworks over the river, all part of the three-week long annual Brisbane Festival. There's been a nightly show called the Santos City of Lights, with lasers shooting from the tops of buildings, lights projected onto streams of water pumped into the air from the river, and and music to go with it. We stopped by on more than one occasion to check it out. It was pretty mesmerizing! And so photogenic.

We joined the big crowd at the river's edge for a spectacular show.

Barges anchored in the river shot jets of water to project light onto.
Some sort of floating, moving light shape. In the background in the left is the Treasury Casino,
 a beautiful old building in the CBD.

The finale of the show featured a jellyfish-like creature "swimming"  above the river. So cool!
From another angle, on another night.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Destination New Zealand!

Wow, it's September! It's kind of crazy that we've already been back in Australia for six months now - and sadly, have not yet even left Queensland. So we're truthfully a bit giddy for October to roll around - because in just four weeks' time, we'll be headed off to explore some totally new territory: the south island of New Zealand!

We're taking the easy way out with this trip, actually. It was actually pretty much all already planned when our friends Stephane and Jenny (who are living over in NZ and about to wrap up their year there) invited us along on their weeklong trip in October, where they'll drive from Christchurch to Queenstown in a leisurely, on-a-budget-but-with-lots-of-hiking-and-photo-snapping sort of manner... just the way we like it! It's a real double whammy -  not only will we get to reunite with some great friends (with whom we spent a lot of time with during our first stint in Oz - in Echuca, Port Douglas, and Melbourne), but we'll also get to finally visit a country we've been meaning to for ages.

Kiwi dollar... how cute.
On October 4, we'll fly into Christchurch airport and meet up with Stephane and Jenny. We probably won't see much - if any - of Christchurch, which we hear is still in quite a bit of rubble after the earthquake early this year. From there we'll wind our way south/west to the mountain/adventure town of Queenstown, via Mt Cook, Dunedin, Fjordland National Park (at the southernmost tip of New Zealand, and possibly the world!) and a few other stops. We've got about a week and a half to soak up the scenery and the Kiwi hospitality, both of which we've heard great things about. We're also stoked that the Aussie dollar is doing so well against the New Zealand dollar, making it a cheaper trip than we thought, and also for the chance to brush up on our conversational French with Stephane and Jenny.

Queenstown: looks awesome!
We're slightly worried it's going to be freezing cold in October, which is still springtime, and the fact that we'll be hanging out in high altitudes pretty close to Antarctica doesn't help. (Note to self: add wool socks to the packing list!) So unfortunately, it's not a camping trip, but we're hoping we'll be so distracted by the stunning scenery that we'll forget how cold it is. And maybe we'll see a hobbit or two - it is, after all, the gorgeous setting where Lord of the Rings was filmed. It should be a good adventure anyway. The countdown's begun!