Tina and I got married exactly nineteen years ago. Our list of previous anniversary getaway locations includes Montville (Sunshine Coast), Spicers Hidden Vale resort, Mount Tamborine, and Westport, Co. Mayo. This year we went back up to the Sunshine Coast hinterland for an anniversary overnighter.
A feature meal is an important part of an anniversary weekend. Not just any old meal, a meal to remember. You’ve gone away with your missus at around the time of the year when you married her: you can push the boat out a little. An hour or so north of Brisbane, on our final approach to Maleny near the Mary Cairncross Reserve, we pulled in on a whim outside King Ludwig’s German Restaurant and Bavarian Beer Bar. With no reservation we weren’t able to get a window table on the plateau’s edge overlooking the Glasshouse Mountains. Those were all taken by older people (one of which wily operators can be seen in the main photo), wise to the supply-and-demand situation obtaining in such a coveted spot. Sitting in the atmospheric old wooden dining room, however, undistracted by the iconic magma intrusions that form the aforementioned National Heritage Listed mountain range, and with (me) a Bavarian style potato cream soup with Frankfurt sausage (King’s Ludwig’s signature dish) and (Tina) a Berliner Currywurst in front of us, it was all the easier to imagine ourselves back in Olivaerplatz, Berlin, or even in Vienna’s Naschmarkt.
Our place in Maleny was situated on the edge of town in the pleasingly-named Lorikeet Lane, and indeed we could see (and hear) all sorts of wildlife from our hosts’ balcony as we had the sundowner we’d been looking forward to all week. Wallabies grazed and stretched out on the edge of the garden, and the holes in the lawn were the work of bandicoots, according to our host Steve. Having worked out west on the rigs for many years, Steve had retired with his wife Moyra to Maleny where they’d bought the place we were staying in. He hung up a framed photo of an oil rig in one of the rooms, and they rented it out on Airbnb. And now there we were. Theirs is the kind of Airbnb we try to stay in when we go away: the ones where you actually meet and spend a bit of time with the people who live there.
We were close enough to walk down the hill into town in the fading evening light. We’d scoped out a microbrewery called Brouhaha, which turned out to be a bit sparse and brutalist inside. The Noosa scallops pizza sounded a lot better than it turned out to be, but the house porter, a ‘Milk Stout’, was close enough to Guinness to put a smile back on my face. In the mood for an actual Guinness now, we made out way after stout and pizza to an Irish bar we’d seen advertised nearby, but in the event it was so pitiful, so soulless, being part of some mini-mall as it was, that we just kept walking through it without catching the barman’s eye, straight out the side door and into the rain, and made for the sanctuary of the Maleny Hotel where we could work at trying to put the memory of the two karaokistas joylessly doing “Islands in the Stream” out of our heads,
On these occasional trips to the country of ours I’ve found myself more and more drawn to the small town bars in country hotels and even the RSLs (Returned Servicemen Leagues), believing them to be a font of authentic, true-blue Ozzie types, despite the fact that such types are usually outnumbered three to one by young ones in skimpy tops and buttock-revealing shorts, even when everyone else is dressed up against the cold. From Glen Innes to Goondiwindi, we’ve watched footie and harness racing, drank XXXX (me), all the while surrounded by Keno screens and TAB slips. In the garishly-lit front bar of the Maleny Hotel we watched the rain build up outside, contemplating our twenty minute walk back, and reminisced about previous anniversaries to a background of rock songs that are so familiar at this stage that they’re like the old, peeling wallpaper of the rooms of my mind. But I still like these daggy places, the bars and the RSLs. This is one of the good ones, I thought. When they rain let up a bit Tina and I unfurled our umbrellas and walked through the night, over Obi Obi Creek bridge, up Maple Street, under the awnings of the bakeries and bookshops, back towards Lorikeet Lane.
At one stage on a dark stretch rain-scattered headlights suddenly grew alarmingly close before a four-wheel drive pulled in beside us; it was Steve, concerned about us, beckoning us in. We were fine, we said, and told him we’d see him at home in ten minutes. We felt bad as he drove off: we should have taken the lift. But walking at night on a country road in light rain is not something we do very often. It’s what we were there for. When we got in we checked in on him and Moyra to thank them for looking out for us. They were well into the second episode of a three-part mini-series on the Battle of Hastings we’d put them on to earlier on.
Threading our way alongside Obi Obi and Kiddaman creeks through the gaps between Imbil State Forest and Maleny National Park, we drove to the small village of Kenilworth the next morning, the furthest (and northernmost) point in our circuit. In the park we marvelled at how towns like this seemed so small when not teeming with food stalls and arts and crafts displays, which Kenilworth had been on both our previous visits. The Kenilworth Dairies cheese display looked very tempting, all mango- and passionfruit-flavoured blocks of edam and cheddar, but if we were going to buy any food up here in the Sunshiner it was going to be fruit: just fruit, not fruit in cheese. (At a roadside fruit stop in Peachester a little later, we picked up a huge bag of lychees at $3 a kilo. Tina can’t get enough of those Chinese gooseberries.)
Evidence of possible Irish connections in the area were the Connemara stud we passed on our way back south along the Mary River valley, and the meandering Aherns Road. At least I assume Aherns is an Irish name: it was (in singular form) the name of one of our Taoiseachs recently. The summit of Wild Horse Mountain gave us a last panorama of the Glasshousers, from southerly Beerburrum to northerly Ngungun. In between, a vast forest of recently-planted Slash Pine/Caribbean Pine hybrid, out of which the bigger and better-known shapes of Tibrogargan and Beerwah emerged. Wild Horse itself may be a bit tame in comparison to the magma monoliths across the Bruce Highway, and may lack an exciting aboriginal name and legend, like Tibberoowuccum or Crookneck have, but its name, given it by the original settlers to the area, harkens evocatively back to a ‘Man from Snowy River’ time when wild brumbies roamed free in the area.
We were soon southbound again, on our way home, crossing first the Pine river then the Brisbane itself. On the south bank, but not the South Bank, of that muddy river, we stopped into our second microbrewery of the weekend just to keep things going. In Brewdog (I’m detecting what programmers call a ‘naming convention’ here) we watched the rain that had been brewing all day come to a head and send the outdoor drinkers into the hangar-sized brewery for cover. I just looked up and around at the whole place, which was just a scrappy field by the river’s edge more or less in the shadow of the Gateway Bridge when I worked there at Murarrie two and a half years ago.
The first thing I did when I got back home was download a plant identification app Moyra had told me about when I’d asked her how she knew what plants and trees were what, which people who live in the country always seem to do. I had no idea the tech was so advanced that one photo was all it took to id something as messy and distinct, one from the next, as a plant. Well, now I know. As a result of my investigations I have discovered that we are the proud owners of, among a host of other flora in our back garden, a Benjamin fig, a Golden Trumpet, a Burro’s tail, and a Song of India, by Jove.
The second thing I did, talking about the weekend with Tina in the evening, was plan more trips away, and, nearly as importantly, plan to get back into blogging more about our travels, even small trips like this one.