around the world – part 17.2 (australia)

12 September 2006.

The Australian Army hosted the MIP functionality test at Enoggera Military Camp in the western suburbs of Brisbane.  Enoggera is home to 7 Brigade with its line units and a Divisional HQ and Signals Regiment.  It is the Signals Regiment which has supplied the facilities and much of the Australian Army members to this test event/exercise – although several Aussies are members of other Army organizations as well.

The Camp is clearly a Second world war establishment, populated with a mix of wood frame buildings of that era and several much newer buildings.  It is interesting to note that while the remaining older buildings do look a little tired and somewhat run down – they are in much better shape than comparable building stock at Canadian Bases.  I attribute this to the fact that the worst that winter has to throw at these buildings is a ‘frigid’ 6 Celsius. We have generally condemned our old ‘H’ huts and no longer use them while they are very much in use here.

Brisbane is inland from the Pacific Ocean on both sides of a serpentine river which flows east towards the ocean, culminating in a large bay protected by substantial sand islands which form the northern extreme of the ‘Gold Coast’ and ‘Surfers Paradise”. There is a range of hills to the west known as the Great dividing Range which are, by the time they extend northward from New South Wales into Queensland, not so much mountains as large hills. I am reminded of southern Vancouver Island.

The city is also populated by small hills and knolls around which wind the arterial roads connecting the suburbs to the riverside downtown. I am again reminded of Victoria, in that the roads follow the old cattle driving paths which wind around the hills. Thus roads which begin as parallel quite often strike off at angles, cross over each other (Cook Street anyone?) etc and seem to change name about every kilometre or so.

The downtown, while modern and busy, is still quite human in scale as Brissies have retained public access to the river front and much public space has been developed all along the river.
Our hotel was located on the western edge of downtown sitting literally right on top of the Brisbane Transit exchange.  Thus the main rail station is directly behind the hotel and mall complex – a hub where commuter rail, city busses, intercity transport all converge.

Every morning about half of the Canadian contingent has been taking breakfast at a small restaurant (‘ChezNous’) directly across the road from the hotel.  It is quite popular with police (the main police HQ is right next door) and families. Our uniforms attracted quite a bit of attention, particularly from the kids who seem fascinated by us.  Our Sergeant Major, in good anticipatory fashion, arrived well armed with all sorts of extra Canadian goodies and so every day we left the restaurant having distributed flags, pins, pens and stickers to anyone who wants one.

Yesterday a little boy from Adelaide (south coast) who reminded me very much of the elder fierce creater, chattered quite happily about his favourite rugby league team, oblivious to the fact that we could barely understand his Victoria state acccent nor that we knew anything about rugby.  This didn’t stop him from asking us who our favourite ‘footy’ player was though.

Also yesterday I received what might have been the best haircut ever.  I know – nobody cares about haircuts but bear with me. I needed a trim and found a local barber – the fellow was older than dirt and had probably been giving haircuts 60 years ago when the town was full of allied troops. Anyway, you wouldn’t think that this fellow with his frail hands and possibly suspect eyesight might not finish off his haircust with a straight razor, but this is exactly what he did. For those of you who have never had your neck cleaned or hair finished with a straight razor, I can highly recommend it. When well executed, it produces the best cut you will ever receive. It is now hard to find people who can do this as for health and safety reasons, straight razors are beginning to disappear in Canada.


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